The Champion

January/February 2003 , Page 12 

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Remembering Abe Fortas and Hugo Black

By Abe Krash

The principal architects of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Gideon v.Wainwright1 were Abe Fortas, a brilliant advocate, and Hugo Black, a great jurist. Fortas, who was then a lawyer in private practice in Washington, DC, was appointed by the Supreme Court to represent Clarence Earl Gideon in connection with his appeal. He wrote the brief and presented the oral argument on Gideon’s behalf. Justice Black was the author of the Court’s opinion upholding the constitutional right to counsel of indigent persons in all state court felony prosecutions. Fortas and Black were each remarkable men, and the decision bears the imprimatur of both.  

For those two, this case was a high water mark. In his memoirs, Justice Douglas wrote that Fortas’ oral presentation in Gideon was “probably the best single legal argument” Douglas heard in his 36 years on the Court.2 

A recent biographer of Justice Black, describing the scene at the Supreme Court on March 18, 1963, when Black delivere

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