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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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