Originally published Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 8:58 PM
Court rules on children, their right to attorney
The state Supreme Court for the first time recognized that children have "at least the same due process right to counsel as do indigent parents." But that due process will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
By Maureen O'Hagan
Seattle Times staff reporter
Should a child be granted the right to an attorney when his parents are accused of abuse or neglect?
Most states say the answer is yes, but in Washington dependency courts, it's been a matter of debate for years. Everyone agrees a lot is at stake: Children can lose not only their parents and their home, but also be separated from their siblings, their aunts and uncles, their school, their friends. They could bounce from one stranger's home to another in foster care.
The state Supreme Court took a big step toward answering that question in a 9-0 decision Thursday. Foster children "have vital liberty interests at stake and may constitutionally be entitled to counsel," Justice Tom Chambers wrote for the court.
Advocates believe the ruling will alter the landscape of dependency court, leading judges to appoint attorneys for more and more of the thousands of children entering the system. FULL STORY