Gideon v. Wainwright

  • The "Who Cares if You're Innocent" Project on the Right

    Recent Senate hearings for Biden's court nominees, and the opinions of some Supreme Court justices on criminal cases, suggest that constitutional protections for the right to counsel are in jeopardy, says legal historian Sara Mayeux. 

  • Anthony Lewis, Who Transformed Coverage of the Supreme Court, Dies at 85

    Anthony Lewis, a former New York Times reporter and columnist whose work won two Pulitzer Prizes and transformed American legal journalism, died on Monday at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 85.The cause was complications of renal and heart failure, said his wife, Margaret H. Marshall, a retired chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.Mr. Lewis brought passionate engagement to his two great themes: justice and the role of the press in a democracy. His column, called “At Home Abroad” or “Abroad at Home” depending on where he was writing from, appeared on the Op-Ed page of The Times from 1969 to 2001. His voice was liberal, learned, conversational and direct....

  • Stephen B. Bright and Sia M. Sanneh: "Gideon v. Wainwright", Fifty Years Later

    Stephen B. Bright, who teaches at Yale Law School, is president and senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. Sia M. Sanneh, Senior Liman Fellow at Yale Law School, is an attorney with the Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama.March 18 marked the fiftieth anniversary of one of the Supreme Court’s most celebrated decisions, Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the Court unanimously declared that poor people accused of crimes are entitled to lawyers and that every person “stands equal before the law.” But resistance to—and outright defiance of—this landmark ruling endures. Fairness and equality are in short supply in the criminal courts, which have incarcerated 2.3 million people, a grossly disproportionate number of them people of color. Because a major consequence of poverty is often inadequate representation, racial discrimination in the system as a whole—from stops by police, to disparities in charging, to the exclusion of blacks and Latinos from juries, to the severity of sentences—often goes unchallenged and even unremarked upon.

  • Paul Butler: Gideon's Muted Trumpet

    Paul Butler, a professor of law at Georgetown University and a former federal prosecutor, is the author of “Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.”FIFTY years after the Supreme Court, in Gideon v. Wainwright, guaranteed legal representation to poor people charged with serious crimes, low-income criminal defendants, particularly black ones, are significantly worse off.Don’t blame public defenders, who are usually overwhelmed. The problem lies with power-drunk prosecutors — I know, because I used to be one — and “tough on crime” lawmakers, who have enacted some of the world’s harshest sentencing laws. They mean well, but have created a system that makes a mockery of “equal justice under the law.” A black man without a high school diploma is more likely to be in prison than to have a job.

  • Pamela S. Karlan: "Gideon" Turns 50

    Pamela S. Karlan is Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School.This spring marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, in which the Supreme Court considered the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.” The Court unanimously interpreted the Amendment as requiring that states provide attorneys for defendants who lack the resources to hire them privately. The “noble ideal” that “every defendant stands equal before the law,” Justice Hugo Black’s opinion declared, “cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.” Given an attorney for his retrial, Clarence Gideon was acquitted.Today, the vast majority of felony defendants depend on appointed counsel to represent them, and the quality of representation varies wildly.