Right to counsel

Key_development Question_mark

Litigation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents

In Flores v. Flores, the Alaska Supreme Court held that the state constitution's due process clause requires counsel for indigent parents "whenever an indigent parent, unable to present his or her case properly, faces a substantial possibility of the loss of custody or of prolonged separation from a child." 598 P.2d 893, 895 (Alaska 1979).

A constitutionally-based right to counsel necessarily includes the right to effective assistance. V.F. v. State, 666 P.2d 42, 45 (Alaska 1983) ("[W]henever the right to counsel is constitutionally guaranteed in a particular proceeding, the effective assistance of counsel is also constitutionally required." (citing e.g., McMann v. Richardson, 90 S.Ct. 1441, 1449 [1970]).  But "[t]he right to the effective assistance of counsel does not extend … to the right to reject appointed counsel and have new counsel appointed in the absence of any showing of cause for such change." P.M. v. State, 42 P.3d 1127, 1133 (Alaska 2002). 

In P.M., a father who faced the termination of his parental rights refused to work with two separate appointed attorneys, threatened them, and filed bar complaints against them. Id. at 1130.  The Alaska Supreme Court upheld the Superior Court’s refusal to appoint replacement counsel, relying on a large body of case law refusing to so appoint where the “request for replacement counsel lacked merit or was being used as a delay tactic.” Id. at 1133 (citing Coleman v. State, 621 P.2d 869, 877–78 [Alaska 1980]).

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no