Today the Washington Supreme Court hears arguments in King v. King, a case concerning the right to have court-appointed counsel in civil cases. Brenda Leone King was unrepresented in her divorce case and lost almost all custody of her children to her ex-husband, who had an attorney. She asked for a new trial, arguing that she should have had an attorney appointed for her. The superior court denied that request, and now the case is before the state Supreme Court. Should poor be appointed attorneys in civil cases?, Seattle Times, May 31, 2007; Should state pay for divorce lawyer?, Seattle P-I, May 30, 2007.
Amicus briefs have been filed by:
- the Washington State Bar Association. At its December meeting WSBA's Board of Governors adopted the recommendation of the amicus brief committee that it file a brief but not argue for a constitutional right to counsel in such cases.
- the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel (see article about the coalition).
- the Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. The Times says that the AG opposes the right because of concerns about the financial impact on the state.
- Retired Washington State judges.
- the Washington State Legislatrue.
- Northwest Women's Law Center.
- the Washington State Association of Counties. The P-I says that the organization's position is that this is a matter better left to the legislature.
- a group of international human rights scholars. The motion for leave to file an amicus brief and the brief are available from Columbia Law School, Human Rights Institute, Bringing Human Rights Home Program. The brief was coauthored by Prof. Martha F. Davis (Northeastern) and Prof. Raven Lidman (Seattle University). The brief has a several-page table outlining the scope of the right to counsel for low-income civil litigants in European countries. The 16 professors listed in the motion are from around the country. In addition to Lidman, others from Washington are: Upendra D. Acharya (Gonzaga), George Critchlow (Gonzaga), Gwynne L. Skinner (Seattle U), Ronald C. Slye (Seattle U), Kristen A. Stilt (UW), and Mary Pat Treuthart (Gonzaga).
All the briefs are available from the Sargent Shriver National Center for Poverty Law.
Michele Storms is moderating a panel on this topic at the Washington State Access to Justice Conference on Saturday.