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N.H. Supreme Court Rules Low-Income Parents Have No Absolute Right To Lawyers

The state’s Supreme Court ruled Friday that New Hampshire parents who can’t afford a lawyer and are charged with abuse or neglect can now be appointed a lawyer on a case-by-case basis. 

For the last year and a half, due to budget cuts, the state has not provided low income parents with lawyers. 

Jeanne Herrick with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office says the ruling lines up with the state’s position that there is no absolute right to counsel.  She says it’s now up to a judge to decide.

“In those cases where the trial court decides that fundamental fairness necessitates counsel may be appointed.”

Vivek Sankaran, a law professor at the University of Michigan filed an amicus brief in the case.  He says he’s disappointed in the court's ruling.

“There’s no funding available at all for this type of appointment.  It’s unclear whether the legislature is going to appropriate money or whether courts are going to have to take it out of their own budget.” (:11)

The state says that in 2010 and 2011, it spent more than $1 million on court-appointed counsel for parents.


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