Right to counsel

Litigation, Civil Contempt in Family Court

In Lewis v. Lewis, 875 S.W.2d 862, 863-64 (Ky. 1993), the Kentucky Supreme Court stated, "The predominant issue in any such contempt proceeding regarding the determination of an entitlement to appointed counsel is not whether the proceeding is denominated civil or criminal, but rather whether the court could elect to imprison the indigent defendant", and in May v. Coleman, 945 S.W.2d 426, 427 (Ky. 1997), the Kentucky Supreme Court cited to Lewis as evidence that it had extended the right to counsel derived from Gideon v. Wainwright "to civil contempt proceedings where imprisonment is a potential punishment ...."


Given the heavy reliance on the Fourteenth Amendment and the threat of imprisonment, these cases are in some doubt after Turner v. Rogers, 131 S.Ct. 2507 (2011) (Fourteenth Amendment does not require right to counsel in civil contempt, at least where opponent is neither the state nor represented and matter is not "especially complex"), at least for cases within Turner's purview.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes