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No Harm, No Foul? Why Harmless Error Analysis Should Not Be Used To Review Wrongful Denials Of Counsel To Parents In Child Welfare Cases, Vivek Sankaran
The application of a harmless error standard by appellate courts reviewing erroneous denials of counsel in child protective cases undermines a critical procedural right that safeguards the interests of parents and children. Case law reveals that trial courts, on numerous occasions, improperly reject valid requests for counsel, forcing parents to navigate the child welfare system without an advocate. Appellate courts excuse these violations by speculating that the denials caused no significant harm to the parents, which is a conclusion that a court can never reach with any certainty. The only appropriate remedy for this significant problem is a bright-line rule ...