Right to counsel

Litigation, Civil Commitment

In Commonwealth ex rel. Finken v. Roop, 339 A.2d 764, 770 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1975), the court examined the civil commitment statute and noted, "[Section] 406 does not require that the subject of a civil commitment petition be represented by counsel. Nor does it require that the final commitment order follow an evidentiary hearing. If neither were read into the statute, § 406 would be blatantly unconstitutional."  The court found, however, that it had the power to read such basic due process requirements into the statute. 


In Dixon v. Attorney Gen. of Pennsylvania, 325 F. Supp. 966 (M.D. Pa. 1971), a federal court recognized a federal right to appointed counsel for indigent respondents in commitment proceedings.  The court relied on Specht v. Patterson, 386 U.S. 605 (1967) (persons criminally convicted under Sex Offenders Act entitled to full panoply of criminal procedural protection) and Application of Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967) (right to counsel for minors in delinquency proceedings).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes