WA Court of Appeals finds right to counsel for foster child

06/10/2014, Litigation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children

In In re J.A., 2014 WL 2601713 (Wa. App. 2014) (unpublished), the appellants argued that the trial court had abused its statutory discretion under Wash. Code § 13.34.100 in not appointing counsel and that this child and all children have a due process right to counsel under the federal and state constitutions. The Court of Appeals ruled in an unpublished opinion that the trial court had abused its discretion under the statute in not appointing counsel, and chose not to reach the larger constitutional question. In finding the abuse of discretion, the court applied the Mathews v. Eldridge factors to the statute and found that the foster child had both family and physical liberty interests at stake, plus the trial court's earlier determination that the foster child was currently in a safe placement had been called into question by a change of facts. The court also found that the risk of error in dependency proceedings is generally high and that GALs/CASAs cannot protect the legal interests of the child.


Read a copy of the opinion, or to see the documents from the case, check out our comprehensive bibliopgraphy section on J.A.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no


Nccrc_involvement_icon NCCRC helped with the briefing on the constitutional issues.