The Champion

January/February 2003 , Page 13 

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An Update: Reflections on the Fortieth Anniversary of Gideon

By Abe Krash

Five years ago, on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Gideon v. Wainwright, I wrote the feature accompanying this essay, describing the contributions to the decision by each of its two principal architects: Abe Fortas, counsel appointed by the Supreme Court to represent Clarence Earl Gideon in his appeal to the High Court, and Justice Hugo Black, the author of the Court’s opinion. Now, on the 40th anniversary of the decision, I believe we should focus on the ways in which the great principle of Gideon — the constitutional right of every accused person to the assistance of counsel — has not been fulfilled, and to determine on a course of action to remedy the situation. 

It did not become apparent until some years after the Gideon decision that it is insufficient to guarantee, in principle, that an accused person has a lawyer at his side. The critical questions are (i) whether that lawyer is qualified to try a criminal case, (ii)

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