Discretionary appointment of counsel

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Litigation, Paternity - Defendant/Respondent

In Maine v. Tarvers, 561 A.2d 1029 (Me. 1989), the Maine court cited Lassiter to find that in cases that "do not threaten the immediate loss of physical liberty," adequate due process must be determined by applying a balancing test on a case-by-case basis.  Then, the court turned to the federal test for procedural due process outlined in Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976).  

Applying this test, which weighs the private interests of the litigants, the state's interests, and the risk of erroneous deprivation of the litigant's rights, the court concluded that appointed counsel was not necessary to satisfy due process requirements in this case. The court's analysis focused on the putative father's private interest in avoiding erroneous deprivation of his rights. Although the court noted that the putative father does have a due process interest in correctly determining the child's paternity, it was not sufficient to warrant appointed counsel, especially where the petitioner has the burden of proof and the state pays for blood tests.  The court concluded, "We believe that the current procedures, as applied in this case, are sufficient to protect the interests of the alleged father."

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no