Judge Hoort, of the 8th Judicial Circuit Court pointed out today that he thought in Michigan folks who are faced with civil contempt for non-support are entitled to court-appointed attorneys. Since I love a challenge, I went to my favorite Internet law library (TheLaw.net) and quickly found the Michigan case law supporting his point.
In Mead v Batchelor, 435 Mich. 480 (1990), Michigan's supreme court reversed Sword v. Sword, 399 Mich. 367 (1976), holding that “[i]n light of more recent developments in due process jurisprudence and changes in Michigan statutes governing child support enforcement, we now are persuaded that our holding in Sword must be modified to recognize that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution precludes incarceration of an indigent defendant if he has been denied counsel in a contempt proceeding for failure to pay child support.”
Interestingly, in Mead, there were amicus briefs filed by the following: Roland C. Fancher, the ACLU Fund of Michigan; the Family Law Section; Legal Aid of Western Michigan; and also by Michigan Legal Services.
Apparently, in South Carolina, the FOC doesn’t represent the payee, and the S.C. Court’s idea is that “we aren’t gonna do it for you, scumbag child support scofflaw, because then we’d have to spend money providing counsel for the payee.” At least the S. Ct. decision makes clear that there have to be some alternative measures taken to ensure a modicum of due process.
My question to you is: How do we reconcile this result with the felony non-support statute, MCL 750.165, which does not have inability to pay as a defense?
See Judge Hoort's blog here: http://judgedavidhoort.blogspot.com/