Justices Weigh Rights Of 'Deadbeat' Parents The case before the court Wednesday comes from South Carolina, where Michael Turner was jailed for a year for failing to pay child support. He argues that he couldn't afford to pay, and that sending indigent parents to jail without providing them with a lawyer is a modern form of debtors' prison.
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Supreme Court Weighs Rights Of 'Deadbeat' Parents

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Supreme Court Weighs Rights Of 'Deadbeat' Parents

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Supreme Court Weighs Rights Of 'Deadbeat' Parents

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POST: Ohio is incorrectly listed among the states that do not provide legal counsel for poor defendants in child-support contempt proceedings. We relied on information in a U.S. Supreme Court brief, but it turns out that while the Ohio Supreme Court ruled there is no constitutional right to counsel, the state has since enacted a law providing counsel.]

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

The Supreme Court hears a case today testing whether indigent fathers who fail to make child-support payments may be jailed for as much as one year at a time without being provided a lawyer. Most states do provide counsel for deadbeat dads too poor to afford legal help. But a few do not, including Florida, Georgia, Maine, Ohio and South Carolina. Here's NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG: Both sides cite the research work of Elaine Sorensen, of the Urban Institute, author of an article called "Deadbeats and Turnips in Child Support Reform." Deadbeats are parents who could but don't pay. Turnips are ones who can't - as in, you can't get blood out of a turnip. So what percentage of non-paying parents are deadbeat, and what percentage are turnips? Sorensen says most of those who end up in jail are low-income.

D: That's who tends to be the noncompliant. They're more likely to be a turnip than a deadbeat.

TOTENBERG: Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington.

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