FAMILY SUPPORT DIV.-CHILD SUPPORT v. Lane

Decision Date08 June 2010
Docket NumberNo. WD 70715.,WD 70715.
Citation313 S.W.3d 182
PartiesSTATE of Missouri, ex rel. FAMILY SUPPORT DIVISION-CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT, and Tracy L. Stude, Respondents, v. Terry Eugene LANE, Appellant.
CourtMissouri Court of Appeals

Terry Eugene Lane, Lee's Summit, MO, pro se.

James F. Kanatzar, Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney R. Benjamin Winfrey and Raoul C. Stitt, Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys, Kansas City, MO, for Respondent.

Before Division I: KAREN KING MITCHELL, Presiding Judge, and LISA WHITE HARDWICK and CYNTHIA L. MARTIN, Judges.

KAREN KING MITCHELL, Presiding Judge.

The State of Missouri, ex rel. Family Support Division—Child Support Enforcement ("Division"), and Tracy L. Stude (collectively, "Respondents") applied to the Circuit Court of Jackson County for a contempt citation against Appellant Terry Eugene Lane, for failure to pay child support. On November 18, 2008, Commissioner Patrick Campbell held a hearing on Respondents' application. At the hearing, the Commissioner found Lane to be in contempt. On January 29, 2009, the Commissioner entered a written order, finding Lane in contempt and remanding him to the department of corrections, but staying the execution of the judgment on the condition that he pay $50 a month to purge his contempt. The same day, the circuit court, the Honorable Christine Sill-Rogers presiding, entered judgment against Lane, adopting Commissioner Campbell's findings. On February 27, 2009, Lane filed a notice of appeal, challenging the January 29, 2009 order. On April 7, 2009, the Commissioner remanded Lane to the Jackson County Department of Corrections for failure to comply with the terms of the court's stay of execution. We reverse and remand.

Facts and Procedural Background1

On September 26, 1991, the State of Kansas, ex rel. Secretary, Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, and Tracy L. Meredith,2 as the next friend of her child, filed a petition for paternity and child support against Lane in the Circuit Court of Jackson County. On January 28, 1992, a sheriff's return of service and an affidavit of service were filed in the circuit court, affirming that, on that same date, Lane was personally served with a copy of the summons and a copy of the petition. On April 28, 1992, the circuit court entered a default judgment for paternity and child support, finding Lane to be the natural father of Stude's child and ordering Lane to make child support payments of $146.00 per month.

On January 11, 2008, the Respondents filed an application for a contempt citation against Lane for failure to pay child support as required by the 1992 default judgment.3 On November 18, 2008, the Commissioner held a hearing on the application for contempt. There, Lane argued that he was not in contempt because he was not the father of Stude's child and because he was not served with the petition for paternity and child support.

The Commissioner found that there was insufficient evidence to overcome the presumption that Lane had been served in the underlying action. Then, the Commissioner found that Lane willingly violated the child support judgment and was therefore in contempt. The Commissioner established a $35,498.00 purge amount and remanded Lane to the custody of the department of corrections, but he stayed execution of the judgment ("Stay of Execution"), upon the condition that Lane pay $50.00 to a trust account every month beginning December 15, 2008, and upon the fifteenth of every month thereafter. At the hearing, the Commissioner stated as follows:

The Court finds that—that on multiple prior occurrences that the Court has had conversations with Mr. Lane and has advised him of his right to have an attorney, and that Mr. Lane has appeared in person without an attorney here today, and that by his actions has waived his right to an attorney.

However, although the record does reflect that the Commissioner had previously advised Lane that he had a right to an attorney, the record does not demonstrate that the Commissioner (or anyone else) informed Lane that he had a right to have counsel appointed if he could not afford counsel. Rather, the Commissioner told Lane that consulting an attorney "is totally in your hands" and stated that Lane should consider whether the investment in a lawyer would be wise.

On January 29, 2009, the Commissioner entered a written order reflecting his oral pronouncements from the bench, and the circuit court entered judgment, adopting the Commissioner's findings.

Lane made no payments. On February 27, 2009, Lane filed a notice of appeal from the January 29, 2009 order. At a hearing on April 7, 2009, the Commissioner lifted the Stay of Execution and remanded Lane to the Jackson County Department of Corrections because Lane had refused to comply with the Stay of Execution's terms. Lane informed the Commissioner that he was unwilling to pay as ordered because he felt his rights had been violated. Specifically, Lane stated: "The State didn't appoint me a lawyer, you know what I'm saying? I asked for one. You didn't appoint me a lawyer." The Commissioner did not respond to this statement.

The Commissioner set bond at $35,498.00, but it was subsequently lowered to $200.00. Lane posted bond on April 27, 2009, and the circuit court reinstated the Stay of Execution on June 25, 2009.4

Standard of Review

In a court-tried case, our standard of review is that explained in Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30, 32 (Mo. banc 1976). Martin v. Dir. of Revenue, 248 S.W.3d 685, 687 (Mo.App. W.D.2008). Accordingly, we will affirm the circuit court's judgment unless (1) it is against the weight of the evidence; (2) it is not supported by substantial evidence; or (3) the circuit court misstated or misapplied the law. Id.

Legal Analysis

On appeal, Lane argues that his due process rights were violated and that he was deprived of his right to a "meaningful defense."

1. Due Process

Under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the accused has a right to counsel at all critical stages of a criminal proceeding, United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 224-25, 87 S.Ct. 1926, 18 L.Ed.2d 1149 (1967), in which jail time is actually imposed. Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 U.S. 25, 40, 92 S.Ct. 2006, 32 L.Ed.2d 530 (1972).

The right to counsel exists in state, in addition to federal, proceedings, by virtue of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 344-45, 83 S.Ct. 792, 9 L.Ed.2d 799 (1963). For the purposes of triggering a defendant's right to counsel under the due process clause, the distinction between a "criminal" and a "civil" proceeding is irrelevant if the outcome of the civil proceeding is imprisonment. Walker v. McLain, 768 F.2d 1181, 1183 (10th Cir.1985) ("The right to counsel, as an aspect of due process, turns not on whether a proceeding may be characterized as `criminal' or `civil,' but on whether the proceeding may result in a deprivation of liberty.").

As noted above, Lane argues that his due process rights were violated and that he was deprived of his right to a "meaningful defense." Although Lane did not brief the specific issue of his due process right to counsel, we may, within our discretion, and on our own initiative, address issues that affect a defendant's federally mandated constitutional rights. State v. Johnson, 628 S.W.2d 904, 907 (Mo. App. E.D.1982). See also State v. Puckett, 230 Kan. 596, 640 P.2d 1198, 1201 (1982) ("Although ordinarily an appellate court will not consider an issue which has not been raised in the trial court or which has not been raised by the parties on appeal, the court does have the power to do so in exceptional circumstances, where consideration of the new issue is necessary to serve the ends of justice or to prevent a denial of fundamental rights.").5 The right to counsel is such a right. Gideon, 372 U.S. at 344-45, 83 S.Ct. 792. Lane cannot be said to have waived his right to counsel because the record does not reflect that he was ever advised that he had a right to have counsel appointed for him should he be found to be indigent. Walker, 768 F.2d at 1185.6 Moreover, assuming the right to counsel has attached, a complete denial of the right (as opposed to a denial of the right where the defendant was provided with counsel, but counsel was incompetent) constitutes reversible error irrespective of whether the violation caused prejudice. Rose v. Clark, 478 U.S. 570, 577-78, 106 S.Ct. 3101, 92 L.Ed.2d 460 (1986) (disapproved of on another ground in Yates v. Evatt, 500 U.S. 391, 402-03 n. 8, 111 S.Ct. 1884, 114 L.Ed.2d 432 (1991)).

2. The Right to Counsel as Applied to Civil Contempt

Except for cases of direct contempt, where the courts have the inherent authority to maintain the order, safety, and/or integrity of the courtroom and the judicial process by ordering contemnors imprisoned immediately, the circuit court, in civil contempt actions, must either (1) predetermine that the offense is of insufficient gravity to warrant jail time; or (2) advise the defendant that he has the right to be represented by counsel and that, if found to be indigent, he has the right to have counsel appointed. Smith v. Kintz, 245 S.W.3d 257, 260 (Mo.App. E.D.2008); Hunt v. Moreland, 697 S.W.2d 326, 329-30 (Mo.App. E.D.1985).7

In the latter case, the circuit court does not have the statutory authority to compel the public defender to represent the defendant in a civil action, State ex rel. Sterling v. Long, 719 S.W.2d 455, 455 (Mo. banc 1986); Albers v. Koffman, 815 S.W.2d 484, 485 (Mo.App. W.D.1991); however, the circuit court has the inherent authority to appoint members of the bar to represent the defendant. See State ex rel. Shaw v. Provaznik, 708 S.W.2d 337, 340 (Mo. App. E.D.1986) (noting that the inherent power to appoint counsel exists but holding that such power cannot be used to appoint a public defender in his or her capacity as ...

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  • Grado v. State
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • 25 de setembro de 2018
    ...may be characterized as ‘criminal’ or ‘civil,’ but on whether the proceeding may result in a deprivation of liberty." Accord Lane, 313 S.W.3d at 186 (civil contempt); see also State v. Churchill, 454 S.W.3d 328 (Mo. banc 2015) (citing Lane with approval but finding it did not apply as there......
  • State v. Churchill, SC 94226
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    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • 3 de fevereiro de 2015
    ...process requires legal representation in civil cases which can result in imprisonment. See State ex rel. Family Support Div.—Child Support Enforcement v. Lane, 313 S.W.3d 182, 186 (Mo.App.2010) (for “purposes of triggering a defendant's right to counsel under the due process clause, the dis......
  • Erickson v. Erickson
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    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 7 de maio de 2013
    ...and intelligently made. See State v. Hunter, 840 S.W.2d 850, 857 (Mo. banc 1992); State ex rel. Family Support Div.–Child Support Enforcement v. Lane, 313 S.W.3d 182, 186 (Mo.App. W.D.2010). But “[u]nless and until the trial court sought to impose a sentence of incarceration,” there is no d......
  • State v. Churchill
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 4 de março de 2014
    ...or "civil," but on whether the proceeding may result in a deprivation of liberty. State ex rel. Family Support Div.-Child Support Enforcement v. Lane, 313 S.W.3d 182, 186 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010); see also Lassiter v. Dep't of Soc. Sevs. of Durham County, N.C., 452 U.S. 18, 25 (1981) (explainin......
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