Indigent by any other name
I had an interesting experience sitting in Judge Jim York's court over in the Family Law Center this morning on an enforcement action. While we were waiting to go before the court, the parties in a suit to revoke the father's community supervision was called (apparently the father had been held in contempt for nonpayment of child support and then failed to pay the back due amount).
Judge York informed the father that since confinement was a possibility should the judge revoke his community supervision that he was entitled to the same rights as a criminal defendant -- one of those rights being the right to appointed counsel if he was indigent.
As proof of his inability to hire an attorney, the father produced pay stubs showing he had a job and was making $10 an hour. Judge York then looked at the father and told him that he was going to deny him an appointed attorney because, although he couldn't afford an attorney, he was not, by definition, indigent.
I sat and thought about that for a second and was dumbfounded (particularly since the next case on the docket involved a doctor and his wife getting a divorce and the court had appointed an attorney to represent the interests of the children (who had no risk of going to jail.).
After I got back to the office I pulled down my copy of Black's Law Dictionary and looked up the meaning of indigency. According to Black's, the "inability to afford an attorney" renders one indigent for purposes of the Sixth Amendment.
Oops. Score one for Harris County.
Mayeux on the Federal Courts and Criminal Justice - *Sara Mayeux, Vanderbilt University Law School*, has posted The Federal Courts and Criminal Justice, which is forthcoming in *Approaches to Federal Judicia...
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