Right to Self-Representation in Termination of Parental Rights Proceeding

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a defendant in a criminal proceeding has a constitutional right to refuse their court appointed counsel. A criminal defendant also has a right to represent themselves, provided they have knowingly and voluntarily waived their right to counsel. In New York, before a court may allow a criminal defendant to proceed pro se, (1) the defendant’s request to do so must be unequivocal and timely asserted, (2) there must have been a knowing and intelligent waiver of the right to counsel, and (3) the defendant must not have engaged in conduct which would prevent the fair and orderly exposition of the issues. 

In in re Kathleen K. the New York Court of Appeals addressed whether the Family Court erred in failing to grant the application of appellant Stephen K. to represent himself in a proceeding brought by the Department of Social Services (“DSS”) to terminate his parental rights (“TPR”).   <Read More>