Oral argument: Mar. 23, 2011
Appealed from: Supreme Court of South Carolina (Mar. 29, 2010)
CIVIL CONTEMPT, CHILD SUPPORT, RIGHT TO COUNSEL, SIXTH AMENDMENT, FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT
By the beginning of 2008, Michael Turner was six thousand dollars behind in his child support payments. A South Carolina family court eventually ordered Turner to appear to explain his failure to make any payments for the past year and a half. Turner alleged his personal and physical problems rendered him unable to pay. The family court imposed civil contempt sanctions as a result of Turner’s failure to comply with the earlier court order to pay child support. Turner appealed his twelve-month sentence, arguing that because there was a possibility that he would face imprisonment, the court should have provided him with counsel. The Supreme Court’s decision will likely determine whether indigent defendants in civil cases are entitled to representation where there is a possibility of incarceration, although the Court could possibly determine that it does not have jurisdiction to hear the case.