Monday, October 19, 2009

Right to Counsel in Parental Termination Proceeding

The Supreme Court of Texas recently declined to review a Texas appellate court's ruling that an indigent defendant-parent in a private action to terminate parental does not have a statutorily- or constitutionally-guaranteed right to counsel. See In the interest of J.C., 2009 Tex. Lexis 171 (Sup. Ct. April 9, 2009).

Without rights such as these -- the right to counsel -- the right to submit and challenge evidence at trial means little or nothing. How does a society that is putatively dedicated to the rule of law justify the termination of parental rights in a proceeding in which the parent does not have counsel and does not have the ability to retain counsel -- not to speak of a parent's inability to secure a reasonable amount of time and services of any counsel the parent might be lucky enough to get?

'Tis a scandal.

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