National Center for Access to Justice

Turner v. Rogers Project, Symposium on

[originally posted to on 8 June 2011]

No one knows what the Supreme Court will do in Turner v. Rogers, but its decision is likely to shape our understanding of access to justice going forward. The issue before the Court is whether an indigent person has a constitutional right to counsel in a civil contempt proceeding that could lead to incarceration for willful failure to pay child support. The Court has many options. It could establish a categorical civil right to counsel, require judges to consider the need for counsel in every case, or determine that states providing counsel in these situations need not do so as a matter of federal law. It could decide that trial judges have specific responsibilities to assist persons without counsel, with implications possibly extending to many classes of cases. Perhaps it could even alter in some way our understanding of the right to counsel recognized in Gideon v. Wainwright. In light of the possibilities and their implications, Concurring Opinions ( will host The Turner Symposium, an on-line analysis by experts in the field interpreting the decision in real time — as soon as the opinion comes down. David Udell, Director of the National Center for Access to Justice, with Richard Zorza, expert in self-represented litigation and blogger at Access to Justice, will jointly coordinate the on-line symposium. When the Supreme Court decides Turner, we hope you’ll join us for expert analysis of the decision and its consequences.