Montana guarantees child-directed counsel for children
While a state may have many statutes, court decisions, or court rules governing appointment of counsel for a particular subject area, a "Key Development" is a statute/decision/rule that prevails over the others (example: a state high court decision finding a categorical right to counsel in guardianships cases takes precedence over a statute saying appointment in guardianship cases is discretionary).
Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children
A 2021 amendment to the child welfare code states that the court must hold a hearing within five business days of the child's removal from the home to determine whether there is probable cause to continue the removal [Mont. Code Ann. § 41-3-306(1)(a)], and the parties—including the child—must be represented by counsel at this hearing. Mont. Code Ann. § 41-3-306(3).
Although paragraph 7 of this section states that the emergency protective services hearing requirement does not apply to cases involving an Indian child who is subject to the Indian Child Welfare Act [Mont. Code Ann. § 41-3-306(7) (Terminates June 30, 2023--sec. 8, Ch. 529, L. 2021)], the Montana Supreme Court recently found this exception unconstitutional as a violation of the right to equal protection of the law under both the U.S. and Montana Constitutions. A.J.B. v. Mont. Eighteenth Judicial Dist. Ct., 2023 WL 195339 (Mont. 2023).
In abuse/neglect proceedings, children were previously entitled to counsel only if a guardian ad litem (GAL) was not appointed. However, Montana recently enacted SB 148, which removed that qualifier. Mont. Code Ann. § 41-3-425 now guarantees client-directed counsel to children in abuse/neglect proceedings regardless of whether a GAL has been appointed:
[T]he court shall immediately appoint the office of state public defender to assign counsel for:
(b) any child or youth involved in a proceeding under a petition filed pursuant to 41-3-422; and
(c) any party entitled to counsel at public expense under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act or [sections 1 through 18 of the Montana Indian Child Welfare Act].
See also Mont. Code Ann. § 47–1–104(4)(b)(i) (specifying appointment of public defender regardless of indigence "as provided for in 41-3-425"). A public defender may be appointed on appeal as well. Mont. Code Ann. § 47–1–104(4)(c).
Finally, Mont. Code § 41-3-112(1) says, “In every judicial proceeding, the court shall appoint a court-appointed special advocate as the guardian ad litem for any child alleged to be abused or neglected. If a court-appointed special advocate is not available for appointment, the court may appoint an attorney or other qualified person to serve as the guardian ad litem..."
If "yes", the established right to counsel or discretionary appointment of counsel is limited in some way, including any of: the only authority is a lower/intermediate court decision or a city council, not a high court or state legislature; there has been a subsequent case that has cast doubt; a statute is ambiguous; or the right or discretionary appointment is not for all types of individuals or proceedings within that category.
Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no