Right to counsel

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Litigation, All Basic Human Needs

In Joni B. v. State, 549 N.W.2d 411, 414 (Wis. 1996), the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected a state statute barring judges from appointing counsel in certain cases on superintending authority as well as due process grounds. It held that the law "clearly intrudes upon the authority of the judiciary, as well as unreasonably burdens and substantially interferes with the judicial branch's inherent power to appoint counsel in order to effect the efficient administration of justice."  The court continued, stating that "a court's inherent power to appoint counsel" does not derive from "an individual litigant's right to counsel" but rather "is inherent to serve the interests of the circuit court", and that "In each case, the circuit court must determine what constitutes a meaningful opportunity to be heard and whether that requires appointment of counsel in the particular instance."  See also Piper v. Popp, 482 N.W.2d 353 (Wis. 1992) ("a circuit court possesses inherent authority to appoint counsel for indigent litigants. This court has explicitly stated that circuit courts possess the inherent power to appoint counsel for the representation of indigents and that the power of appointment 'is not tied to any constitutional right that the indigent may have to counsel'")

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no