Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Litigation, Paternity - Defendant/Respondent

In Carroll v. Moore, 423 N.W.2d 757, 766-67 (Neb. 1988), the plaintiff, a putative father, argued that he had both a federal and state constitutional right to counsel in paternity proceedings. The Nebraska Supreme Court seemed to blend a federal and state constitutional analysis together and declared an absolute right to court appointed counsel in state initiated paternity proceedings. The court observed that paternity cases raise the monumental issue of the creation of parent-child relationships, that a paternity determination is res judicata, and that "[e]ven though a defendant's physical liberty is not immediately at risk if adjudged to be the father of a child in a paternity proceeding, he can lose his physical liberty in later proceedings which arise out of and are based on the initial paternity determination."  The court concluded that "due process" required the appointment of counsel, but did not specify which constitution it was addressing, although it commented at one point that "it is apparent that under federal due process, the right of an indigent to court-appointed counsel may be found in either a civil or criminal context."

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes