Poor People Lose: Gideon and the Critique of Rights

30 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2013 Last revised: 1 Aug 2013

See all articles by Paul Butler

Paul Butler

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 2013


A low income person is more likely to be prosecuted and imprisoned post-Gideon than pre-Gideon. Poor people lose in American criminal justice not because they have ineffective lawyers but because they are selectively targeted by police, prosecutors, and law makers. The critique of rights suggests that rights are indeterminate and regressive. Gideon demonstrates this critique: it has not improved the situation of most poor people, and in some ways has worsened their plight. Gideon provides a degree of legitimacy for the status quo. Even full enforcement of Gideon would not significantly improve the loser status of low-income people in American criminal justice.

Keywords: racial minorities, critique of rights, racial disparities, low-income people

JEL Classification: K00, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Butler, Paul, Poor People Lose: Gideon and the Critique of Rights (2013). Yale Law Journal, Vol. 122, pp. 2176-2204, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2298759

Paul Butler (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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