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Life After Lassiter

An Overview of State-Court Right-to-Counsel Decisions

By Clare Pastore

The 1981 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lassiter v. Department of Social Services frames the view of most courts regarding when to appoint counsel. From that decision state courts have drawn multiple and widely varied conclusions about the circumstances under which a constitutional right to counsel in civil cases attaches. An analysis of the scope of these conclusions suggests potential ways to articulate claims for a civil right to counsel post-Lassiter.

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