Court: Public Lawyers Not Required in Civil Cases

June 20, 2011 - 10:58 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court says South Carolina's jailing of a father for failing to pay child support violated his rights because he was not given a lawyer or other help before he was put behind bars.

But the high court refused to say that states are constitutionally required to provide lawyers for poor people in civil cases where a person faces jail time.

The court ruled 5-4 Monday for Michael Turner, a South Carolina man sent to jail for up to 12 months after he insisted he could not afford his child support payments. Turner had no lawyer, and claimed all people facing jail time have a constitutional right to an attorney.

The court declined to go that far but said there must be alternative procedures that ensure "fundamentally fair" hearings.