HEARING SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONDUCTED TO DETERMINE ENTITLEMENT TO COUNSEL
After she moved to hold the father in contempt for failing to pay court-ordered child support obligations, the Orange County Supreme Court granted the request, on default. But some 20 minutes in, while the proceedings were still underway, the dad appeared late and requested that an attorney be assigned to represent him. After that request was denied, and he was directed to remit some $40,000, the court eventually issued an “order of commitment” directing that he be taken into custody by the Orange County Sheriff Department when he failed to make the payment.
On appeal, the Appellate Division, Second Department, noted that a party who faces the possibility of imprisonment has the right to counsel, if indigent. (A right to counsel is also triggered when a parent is accused of failing to comply with a child-support order.)
Since the dad advised the court that he could not afford an attorney, the AD2 thought that the trial judge should have conducted an inquiry as to whether assigned counsel was appropriate under the circumstances, particularly since the guy also supposedly lacked the means to pay the child support obligations in question.
Was the AD2 supportive there?
# # #