Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Litigation, Paternity - Defendant/Respondent

In Kennedy v. Wood, 439 N.E.2d 1367, 1372 (Ind. Ct. App. 1982), the court held that if a paternity suit is initiated by the state due to the mother receiving child support, the court must inform the respondent of his right to appointed counsel pursuant to the Fourteenth Amendment. The court acknowledged there was no direct liberty threat, but pointed to the potential financial obligations and criminal implications at stake for the putative father, the interest of the child in having an accurate determination, and the increased risk of erroneous deprivation due to the fact that "by intervening heavily on behalf of one side, the State has upset the balance of a traditionally private dispute."  While the court conceded that the blood tests simplified the paternity process to some degree, it reasoned, "An indigent defendant's right to a free blood grouping test may be rendered meaningless without counsel to advise him of the right to demand such a test, to explain its significance, to ensure that the test is properly administered and to ensure that the results are properly admitted into evidence."


The court also found sufficient evidence of state action:


Because Wood's child was a recipient of this public assistance, she was required under Indiana law to name the putative father and to cooperate with the welfare department in establishing paternity or risk the loss of her assistance ... Thus, the prosecuting attorney filed the paternity action in Wood's name and the State agency became the recipient of the monthly support payments to be made once judgment was entered ... In addition, enforcement of this judgment has been made mandatory upon the State by federal regulations. ... 'State action' obviously pervades this case; therefore, the constitutional obligation is considered within this context rather than the context of civil litigation between private parties.


Id. at 1369. 

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes