The Champion

June 2009 , Page 7 

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A Call to Action in Support of the Right to Counsel: Federal Right — Federal Responsibility (Inside NACDL)

By Norman L. Reimer

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Proclaiming the existence of a right does not make it so. Nearly a half century after the Supreme Court held in Gideon1 that the right to counsel is a necessity, and that the states must provide counsel to represent the indigent, fulfillment of that promise remains far from universal.2 NACDL’s recently released report, Minor Crimes, Massive Waste: The Terrible Toll of America’s Broken Misdemeanor Courts, describes a vast misdemeanor conviction infrastructure in which counsel is either not provided or is provided under such oppressive circumstances that counsel often cannot provide constitutionally mandated effective assistance.3 (Read Maureen Dimino’s article on page 36 of this issue.)

Just a few weeks before NACDL issued its report, the National Right to Counsel Committee released Justice Denied: America’s Continuing Neglect of our Constitutional Right to Counsel. This bi-partisan committee — comprised of nationally renowned judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, law enforcement officia

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