Court: Children's right to attorney not universal

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YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) -- The Washington Supreme Court has upheld a state law for determining when foster children should be appointed their own lawyers in dependency cases.

Washington law authorizes, but does not require, trial judges to appoint lawyers to children who may be removed from their families.

Nyakat Luak, a refugee from Sudan, argued that a judge should have appointed counsel to her twin sons in 2008 when her parental rights were terminated. Twenty groups filed briefs in support of a universal right to counsel.

The court ruled that children have due process rights that must be protected, in some cases by appointment of counsel. But the justices ruled unanimously Thursday that the right to an attorney is not universal and that state law is constitutionally adequate to protect these children's rights.