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Turner v. Rogers

United States Supreme Court
564 U.S. 431, 131 S.Ct. 2507 (2011)



A South Carolina family court entered a civil contempt order whereby Michael Turner (plaintiff) was required to pay child support to Rebecca Rogers (defendant). Over the following three years, Turner repeatedly failed to pay as ordered and was held in civil contempt on five occasions. The fifth time Turner did not pay he was sentenced to six-months in the county jail. At a subsequent contempt hearing both Turner and Rogers were not represented by counsel. There, Turner told the judge that he had been addicted to marijuana and had broken his back, but now was clean and wanted another chance to find employment and pay the ordered child support. The judge sentenced Turner to 12 months in jail. With the assistance of pro-bono counsel, Turner appealed arguing for a right to counsel when there is a likelihood of incarceration. The South Carolina Supreme Court rejected Turner’s right to counsel claim after he had completed his 12-month sentence. The court noted that civil contempt does not require all the constitutional safeguards applicable in criminal proceedings. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

Dissent (Thomas, J.)

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