Vindicating the Right to Counsel
5 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2012
Date Written: December 18, 2012
This essay introduces an issue of the Federal Sentencing Reporter devoted to the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Almost fifty years ago, the Supreme Court recognized a Constitutional right to counsel for indigent defendants in Gideon v. Wainwright; since that time, major changes in law and procedure have altered the landscape of the criminal justice system. The contributors to this volume discuss the legal ramifications of some of those changes, focusing on the Supreme Court's recent decisions in Missouri v. Frye and Lafler v. Cooper. The contributors also examine how deficits in the appointment, monitoring, and compensation of counsel often thwart the ability of counsel to provide robust - or even minimally adequate - representation to indigent defendants. The essay reviews the insights of the contributors before shifting focus to the role that individual lawyers play in vindicating the right to counsel. The Constitutional adequacy of representation is measured by "prevailing professional norms" of practice. That standard, used by all courts to measure the substance of the Sixth Amendment right, suggests that the power to deliver on Gideon's promise ultimately rests with counsel who, by providing thorough, thoughtful representation for each client, raise the standards of the profession and add to the force of the Sixth Amendment, not only for their own clients, but for all.
Keywords: Sixth Amendment, right to counsel, Lafler, Frye, indigent defense
JEL Classification: K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation