The Kids Take Precedence Over Your Choice of Defense Counsel

Do child support determinations in California attempt to replicate the decision making of “intact” families, or do they represent some other fundamental state policy on parental obligations to children?  This is the question that occurred to me as I read the decision in Brothers v. Kern.

Brothers is on trial for capital murder.  To pay for his defense counsel, he sold his house and deposited the funds with his attorney.  Brothers was also obligated to pay child support, however, and he was behind in his obligations.  The court rejected counsel’s arguments that Brothers was now indigent, and ordered the child support obligation to be paid out of the client trust fund.

The court also rejected the argument that this order would conflict with Brothers’ constitutional right to the counsel of his choosing.  According to the court:  “The Constitution does not insulate a criminal defendant from third-party claims just because the satisfaction of those claims reduces the defendant’s ability to afford retained counsel.”

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