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ERIC Number: EJ1024574
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 4
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0037-7724
"Gideon v. Wainwright" at Fifty: Lessons for Democracy and Civics
Scruggs, Kevin
Social Education, v77 n2 p109-112 Mar-Apr 2013
March 18, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's unanimous 1963 decision in "Gideon v. Wainwright." "Gideon," a petty criminal, accused of suspicion of breaking and entry was the seminal Supreme Court case that ruled that defendants in criminal cases have the right to an attorney even if they cannot afford to hire one. The concepts in "Gideon" are now such an entrenched part of our criminal justice system, it is hard to believe that there was a time before "Gideon"--when many poor defendants were forced to represent themselves. The story of how that decision was reached is not just a story about lawyers and judges, but an exemplification of what justice really means. The question before the Supreme Court was whether the right to assistance of counsel meant that if a defendant could not afford counsel, counsel must be appointed to him. In order to rule in favor of "Gideon," the Supreme Court had to overturn its own ruling that dated back to 1942 that the Constitution does not extend the right of appointed attorney to defendants in state criminal cases, a point "Gideon" contested in a hand-written petition to the Supreme court based upon the Sixth Amendment that noted in part… "and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense." On March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to appointed counsel was a fundamental right and thus, state defendants who could not afford to hire their own attorney, commonly referred to as indigent defendants, regardless of status, class, or wealth, no one accused of a crime would have to face a trial without the aid of counsel. This ruling created a new sense of what is fair in American criminal proceedings and led to the creation of public defenders, or equivalent offices, across the country. "Gideon" teaches two important lessons about democracy and civics: (1) first, the law is full of ideals, and these ideals have to be balanced with political, financial and other realities, and (2) second, that individuals in a democracy have the power to make change.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A