New Case Law: US Supreme Court – Due Process and Jail Time For Contempt

The United States Supreme Court issued an oppinion on June 20, 2011 in Turner v. Rogers that touches on self represented litigant’s due process rights in contempt proceedings where jail time is at issue. The Father, Turner,  was ordered to show cause why he should not have been held in contempt for failing to comply with child support order. The South Carolina Family Court, Oconee County, found father in willful contempt and sentenced father to 12 months’ imprisonment. Father appealed. The court found that Turner’s incarceration violated due process because he received neither counsel nor the benefit of alternative procedures to resolve the matter. He did not have clear notice that his ability to pay would constitute the critical question in his civil contempt proceeding. No one provided him with a form (or the equivalent) designed to elicit information about his financial circumstances. And the trial court did not find that he was able to pay his arrearage, but nonetheless found him in civil contempt and ordered him incarcerated.

You can see the full opinion here.

About Sean Stephens

By Sean Stephens Google + Sean Stephens is divorce and family law lawyer, and a founding member of Stephens & Margolin LLP He was born in Eugene, Oregon and is a fourth generation Oregonian. Sean Stephens attended the University of Oregon, and graduated in with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, with a minor in English Literature. His psychology studies emphasized early childhood development. You can find more about Sean Stephens at Stephens & Margolin LLP Follow him
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One Response to New Case Law: US Supreme Court – Due Process and Jail Time For Contempt

  1. I agree with this ruling 100%. Technically, legally speaking contempt is a crime punishable by incarceration. When a defendant is charged with a crime which imposes possible jail time, the defendant is constitutionally entitled to be represented by counsel. I believe in criminal law parlance, the free counsel is referred to a ‘public defender’.

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