National Center for Access to Justice

Turner v. Rogers, Decided and Blogged

The Supreme Court on June 20, 2011 declined to find a categorical federal constitutional right to counsel for persons facing prison for  willful refusal to pay child support in proceedings initiated by an unrepresented spouse. The decision explicitly leaves open the question of whether counsel will be required in civil contempt or other categories of cases in which the government is a party, in which the other side is represented by counsel, or in which the matters are more complex. In a portion of the decision with broad significance for the trial courts and for unrepresented litigants, the Court declared that trial court judges have a duty to provide notice and an opportunity to be heard to unrepresented defendants in such proceedings, and to ask questions sufficient to ensure that the record is developed on the dispositive issue. David Udell, Executive Director of the National Center for Access to Justice, co-hosted an on-line symposium from June 20, 2011 through June 27, 2011, with Richard Zorza of, on, with 18 experts posting blogs on the implications of Turner for access to the courts.  To view the full symposium, go to (originally posted June 29, 2011 by David Udell)