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After Half a Century, Gideon’s Promise Remains Elusive (Inside NACDL)
By Norman L. Reimer
Inside NACDL columns.
On January 8, 1962, Clarence Earl Gideon filed a pro se petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, and with that filing he forever changed America’s legal system. When the Court decided the case 14 months later, for most persons accused of serious crimes the notion of fairness was redefined. No longer was the Sixth Amendment right to counsel available only for those with the means to afford it; it was there for everyone charged with a felony. In the years since, the right has been expanded to include many misdemeanors and juvenile delinquency proceedings. The right has also been clearly defined as not just a right to any counsel, but rather to effective counsel.
The Gideon decision rightly belongs in the pantheon of the most important events in the jurisprudential history of the world. The notion that the state must provide the accused with an attorney is now firmly rooted throughout much of the world.1 One can never lose sight of just what an extraordinary concept this is: t
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