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In re Parental Responsibilities Concerning A.C.B.

2022 COA 3. No. 19CA2029.  Child Support Services—Remedial Contempt—Sanctions—Jail—Fourteenth Amendment—Due Process—Indigency—Right to Court-Appointed Counsel.

January 6, 2022

Pueblo County Child Support Services (CSS) filed a motion requesting that the trial court issue an indirect contempt citation to Broyhill for non-payment of child support. CSS sought a jail sentence as a remedial sanction. Throughout the contempt proceedings, Broyhill repeatedly told the court that he was indigent and needed court-appointed legal representation. The trial court denied the request on grounds that the right to court-appointed counsel doesn’t extend to contempt proceedings where only remedial sanctions are requested. The court found him in indirect contempt and sentenced him to 30 days in jail, stayed on the condition that he remain current with his child support obligation.

On appeal, Broyhill contended that the trial court denied him due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution by failing to determine whether he was indigent and thus entitled to court-appointed, state-paid counsel. When, as here, a contempt proceeding is initiated by a governmental entity and a jail sentence is an available remedial sanction, an alleged contemnor who is indigent has the right to court-appointed counsel. Further, the trial court violated Broyhill’s due process rights by refusing to inquire into his indigency status to determine whether he qualified for court-appointed counsel.

The contempt judgment and sentence were reversed and the case was remanded, with instructions, for further proceedings.

Official Colorado Court of Appeals proceedings can be found at the Colorado Court of Appeals website.

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