Right to counsel

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Legislation, Civil Commitment - Subject of Petition

Under La. Child. Code Ann. art. 809(C):


No child shall be admitted . . . to a public or private mental institution or institution for the mentally ill . . . unless he has been represented by retained private counsel who represents only the child's interest or by an attorney from the Mental Health Advocacy Service, unless its executive director has determined that its attorneys are unavailable. Any attorney from the Mental Health Advocacy Service so appointed shall continue to represent the child in any proceeding relating to admission, change of status, or discharge from the mental hospital or psychiatric unit.


Furthermore, La. Child. Code Ann. art. 810(D) specifies that "a child may not waive the right to assistance of counsel in proceedings “in which it has been recommended to the court that the child be placed in a mental hospital, psychiatric unit, or substance abuse facility, nor in proceedings to modify said dispositions,” proceedings “in which he is charged with a felony-grade delinquent act,” or in “probation or parole revocation proceedings.”  


Additionally, “In any dispositional or postdispositional hearing which may result in the mental health institutionalization of a child who is in the custody of the state, the child shall be entitled to . . . an attorney appointed by the Mental Health Advocacy Service, unless unavailable as determined by the director.”  La. Child. Code Ann. art. 607(D).  “If the court finds that the parents of the child are financially able, it may order the parents to pay some or all of the costs of the child’s representation in accordance with Children’s Code Articles 320 and 321.”  La. Child. Code Ann. rt. 607(C).


A person who is indigent or otherwise qualified has the right to have counsel appointed by the Mental Health Advocacy Service in a judicial commitment proceeding based on the grounds of mental illness or substance abuse causing such person to be a danger to himself or others or to be gravely disabled. La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 28:54(C).  Also, in a judicial commitment proceeding, the court shall appoint counsel for a minor provided by the Mental Health Advocacy Service “[i]n the event [the minor] does not select counsel and is unable to pay for counsel or in the event counsel selected by him refuses to represent said minor or is not available for such representation[.]”  La. Child. Code Ann. art. 1442(A).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no