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Appointment Practice Under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act

The Duties of Court-Appointed Counsel

By Matthew T. Besmer

A deployed servicemember loses custody of his child in a court action in Virginia even though the court has appointed an attorney pursuant to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) to represent his interests. The appointed attorney, unable to contact the servicemember at his stateside address, had withdrawn representation and advised the court to use its discretion in rendering judgment. Did the appointed attorney properly represent the servicemember? What duties do SCRA-appointed attorneys owe their clients? What should they do when contact is difficult or impossible? The SCRA and American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct guide attorneys’ proper scope of representation and duties.

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