Turner v. Rogers: A Force for User-Friendly Courts or Empty Promises?

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  1. Those working to enhance access to justice have been hedging our bets, supporting a civil right to counsel while simultaneously promoting reforms that enhance the ability of the indigent to represent themselves. This opinion seems to tip the pendulum a bit in the direction of the latter strategy. It indeed leaves many questions unanswered. To satisfy the requirement for “additional or substitute procedural safeguards” we need to know to what extent judges can play a role in eliciting from the litigant the complete information needed to make a determination. A form is a poor substitute for counsel in that regard. Courts that permit a very restrictive judicial role may have difficulty providing adequate substitute procedural safeguards.

    I also wonder about the asymmetry argument against a right to counsel. What happens in states where the Office of Child Support Enforcement represents a custodial parent in a case where the monies are owed to the parent and not the State, which is often the case in our state? Would not that not require the appointment of counsel for the payor?

    It indeed raises many questions.