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Turner v. Price, USSC No. 10-10, cert granted 11/1/10


Decision below (S.C. supreme court)

Questions Presented (courtesy, Scotusblog):

1) Whether an indigent defendant has a constitutional right to appointed counsel at a civil contempt proceeding that results in his incarceration; and 2) whether the Court has jurisdiction to review the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Cert petition

Scotusblog page

Turner got 12 months in jail for civil contempt for willful failure to pay child support (remedial contempt, that is; Turner could purge the sanction by paying off his arrearage). The South Carolina court held that a civil contemnor isn’t entitled to appointment of counsel, notwithstanding the potential consequence of inccarecration. That court thus took the minority view on the point. Wisconsin takes a more expansive view, Ferris v. State ex rel. Maass, 75 Wis.2d 542, 249 N.W.2d 789 (1977) (“However, where the state in the exercise of its police power brings its power to bear on an individual through the use of civil contempt as here and liberty is threatened, we hold that such a person is entitled to counsel.”), so the outcome of this grant shouldn’t work any drastic change one way or the other. The right to counsel in this sort of situation is also codified, § 977.06(b).

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