Update (October 14, 2016): The Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) brought suit against Mr. Louks for securities fraud in September 2015. The SEC accuses Mr. Louks of defrauding some 90 “investors” in FiberPoP, a bogus “investment opportunity.” This is a civil action, not a criminal prosecution. Therefore, Mr. Louks is not entitled to the appointment of a public defender as indigent defendants in criminal prosecutions are as a matter of United States constitutional law.
When Mr. Louks was alleged to be collecting money from investors after the SEC sued him (the subject of the earlier post, below), he was ordered by the Court to stop and to submit an affidavit to the Court promising that he had stopped. Without the benefit of counsel, he crafted an affidavit that was unsatisfactory in the opinion of U.S. Judge Patrick J. Schiltz (D. Minn.).
This resulted in Mr. Louks be sent to jail for contempt of Judge Schiltz’s order.
Fortunately for Mr. Louks, Judge Schiltz then saw to it that Mr. Louks was appointed a public defender, who helped Mr. Louks with a clearer second amended affidavit. (The explanation for the hand-written page of the affidavit is here.) And Judge Schiltz promptly ordered Mr. Louks’ release from jail and the contempt order purged.
This calls to mind the “Civil Gideon” movement, an effort to establish a right for the poor to be represented in civil litigation, not just criminal cases.
The primary counter-argument against proponents of Civil Gideon, presumably, is that such a right would cause an explosion of civil litigation. It would over-tax and over-burden court systems that already struggle under their current caseloads. But maybe it could be limited to certain kinds of cases? Louks’ situation highlights the fact that the line between civil and criminal law can blur. Being forced to navigate our legal system without a lawyer can lead to devastating hardship in either arena.