Right to counsel

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Legislation, Civil Commitment

There is a right to counsel for respondents in civil commitment proceedings where commitment is sought due to mental health or intellectual disability. Counsel shall by paid for by the state if the individual is unable to afford the expense. Specifically, 18 V.S.A. § 7111 states:


In any proceeding before, or notice to, a court of this State involving a patient or student, or a proposed patient or student, that person shall be afforded counsel, and if the patient or student or proposed patient or student is unable to pay for counsel, compensation shall be paid by the State to counsel assigned by the court...

See also 18 V.S.A. §§ 7613 (stating court shall appoint counsel upon filing of application).  Under the code, a "Patient" is defined as "a resident of or person in Vermont qualified under this title for hospitalization or treatment as a person with a mental illness or intellectual disability." 18 V.S.A. § 7101(15).  Accordingly, the provision likely applies to minors as well, since a "Patient" is not limited to those 18 years of age or older. 

However, the provision goes on to specify that it does "not apply to a proceeding under section 7505 of this title."  Section 7505 proceedings are those related to warrants and certificates for emergency examination.


The right also applies in related proceedings, see 18 V.S.A. §§ 7621 (incorporating § 7613 for continued treatment proceedings); 7625 (incorporating § 7613 for involuntary medication), including proceedings to commit individuals with an intellectual disability who present a danger of harm to others. 18 V.S.A. § 8848 ("Persons subject to commitment, continued commitment, or self-initiated review pursuant to section 8846 of this subchapter shall have a right to counsel as provided in section 7111 of this title.").

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no