Sunday, January 3, 2016

Gideon: An Obvious Truth

Rereading Gideon is a splendid beginning for 2016. The guileless writing doesn't predict the sea change that would be brought about by this decision. It is both a history lesson and a model of constitutional law, reaching the "obvious truth" that indigent people accused of crimes must be provided effective assistance of counsel. Because of Gideon, we have a public defender system and the Criminal Justice Act.

Some selected quotes from Justice Black:

"[R]eason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him. This seems to us to be an obvious truth."

"The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours."

"This noble ideal [that every defendant stands equal before the law] cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him."

Gideon is a short read. Here it is.

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