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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Accepts Case on Right to Lawyer in Civil Contempt Proceedings

Posted Nov 2, 2010 7:29 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has granted cert in a case that asks whether poor people have a right to a lawyer in civil contempt proceedings carrying a threat of jail time.

The South Carolina Supreme Court found that Michael Turner had no right to a lawyer when he was sentenced to a year in prison for failing to pay child support, the New York Times reports. The state supreme court opinion said the sentence was coercive, rather than punitive, and Turner could have avoided prison by paying his child support.

Turner served the entire year-long sentence, the Times says. The case could have jurisdictional problems, however, according to SCOTUSblog. In granting cert, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered briefing on whether it had jurisdiction.

The case is Turner v. Price.

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