Gideon’s Ghost: Providing the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel in Times of Budgetary Crisis

51 Pages Posted: 1 May 2011  

Heather Baxter

Nova Southeastern University - Shepard Broad College of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2010

Abstract

This Article discusses how the budget crisis, caused by the recent economic downturn, has created a constitutional crisis with regard to the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel. The landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright required states, under the Sixth Amendment, to provide free counsel to indigent criminal defendants. However, as a result of the current financial crisis, many of those who represent the indigent have found their funding cut dramatically. Consequently, Gideon survives, if at all, only as a ghostly shadow prowling the halls of criminal justice throughout the country. This Article analyzes specific budget cuts from various states and how those cuts have impacted indigent defense in this country. Further, the Article highlights recent litigation surrounding this issue from four states: Florida, New York, Michigan and Kentucky. It proposes that, while litigation may be one way to reform the system, fundamental reform is necessary in the criminal justice system. The Article offers three specific suggestions on how to bring Gideon back to life: change the tough on crime attitude to free up much needed funding; reform the overburdened misdemeanor system; and implore more prosecutorial discretion in charging crimes.

Keywords: Sixth Amendment, Gideon v. Wainwright, Right to counsel, financial crisis, budgetary crisis

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Baxter, Heather, Gideon’s Ghost: Providing the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel in Times of Budgetary Crisis (September 1, 2010). Michigan State Law Review, Vol. 2010, p. 341, 2010; NSU Shepard Broad Law Center Research Paper No. 11-002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1817882

Heather Baxter (Contact Author)

Nova Southeastern University - Shepard Broad College of Law ( email )

3305 College Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314
United States

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