The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that states did not have an automatic duty to provide counsel in civil courts in the case of a divorced father who was jailed for failing to pay child support.
By a majority 5-4 vote, the justices found that while the South Carolina father’s rights had been violated because he was not given free counsel, US states did not have to provide such advice in all civil contempt cases.
The case was being highly watched and had become emblematic of what civil rights groups have called a trend towards “debtors’ prisons” in America.
In the case before the Supreme Court, Michael Turner had been ordered to pay $51.73 a week in child support. But he had regularly fallen behind, and spent short spells in prison.
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