Discretionary appointment of counsel

Litigation, All Basic Human Needs

In State ex rel. Family Support Div.-Child Support Enforcement v. Lane, 313 S.W.3d 182, 187 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010), the court held in a civil contempt case that "[T]he circuit court does not have the statutory authority to compel the public defender to represent the defendant in a civil action[.] . . . [H]owever, the circuit court has the inherent authority to appoint members of the bar to represent the defendant." (citations omitted)).


The Lane court added that


[w]hen neither the state legislature nor the subject county has provided a mechanism for the defense of civil contempt actions, . . . the court's inherent power to appoint counsel appears to be the only mechanism by which an indigent defendant, facing actual imprisonment in a civil case, can be afforded his constitutionally guaranteed right to counsel. The court must use that power when the right to due process requires it.

The court found that for a defendant faced with civil contempt, "the court should have either (1) predetermined that Lane's failure to pay child support would not result in jail time; or (2) advised Lane that he had a right to counsel and that, if he were found to be indigent, counsel would be appointed unless Lane chose to waive his right to counsel."

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: yes