“Effective” Counsel Required in Probate Court

By Doug Chalgian on February 23, 2022

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This is a published decision emanating from a probate court.  It deals with the rights of a respondent in a mental health commitment hearing.

In Re Chad Londowski  (click on the name to read the case) holds that a person who is subject to a psychiatric commitment may assert, as a basis on appeal, ineffective assistance of counsel.

As you can probably surmise, Mr. Londowski was the subject of a commitment hearing, contested the factual allegations which formed the basis of the petition, and lost.  On appeal, he asserted “ineffective assistance of counsel” as one of the grounds to have the decision reversed.  In what is a case of first impression, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that such proceedings are sufficiently similar to criminal matters to give rise to the same constitutional due process rights.

After holding that Mr. Londowski was entitled to effective counsel, the COA remanded the matter to the trial court to analyze whether that standard was met in this case.  So, a Pyrrhic victory for Mr. Londowski perhaps.

Question: If the lawyer in a mental health commitment hearing has to be moderately competent, how about the lawyer representing the ward in a guardianship proceeding?   MCL 700.5303(3) provides that a person who is the subject of an adult guardianship petition, and who contests some aspect of the appointment, is entitled to an attorney. Same concerns about due process and loss of liberty would seem to apply.

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mm By: Doug Chalgian
Doug Chalgian

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