Gideon v. Wainwright Revisited: What Does the Right to Counsel Guarantee Today?
10 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2008
Date Written: 1990
In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court unanimously held that indigent state felony defendants are constitutionally entitled to the appointment of trial counsel. The opinion aroused wide support, and even enthusiasm, almost from the moment it was announced in 1963. Two and a half decades later this support has not diminished. However, are the words of praise only lip service to the noble idea of the right to counsel? Has Gideon really made a difference? Has its promise of a fair shake for poor criminal defendants been kept, or has Gideon meant only that defendants are provided with the fleeting and pressured presence of an unprepared lawyer? Moreover, does Gideon's extend beyond the initial criminal trial stage to other important quasi-criminal and civil proceedings?
To commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Gideon, to reflect upon its impact today, and to assess its broader meaning, the Legal Aid Society of New York convened a meeting on October 22, 1988, at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. A diverse collection of distinguished individuals addressed the conference. The speakers included a leading author and chronicler of Gideon, judges, practitioners, academics, and even players in the Gideon drama. Pace Law Review has chosen to publish this edited version of the proceedings to provide an illuminating perspective on one of the most significant Supreme Court decisions of our time.
Keywords: right to counsel, criminal procedure, constitutional law
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