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The Champion

July 2018 , Page 57 

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Informal Opinion: The Right to Counsel in the US: An International Perspective

By Allie Funk

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In the United States, the right to counsel is considered so fundamental to a fair, rational, and humane criminal justice system that it is constitutionally mandated through the Sixth Amendment. The Supreme Court reinforced this in the unanimous 1963 Gideon v. Wainwright1 decision and reaffirmed it in numerous cases, including Argersinger v. Hamlin2 in 1972, Strickland v. Washington3 in 1984, and Rothgery v. Gillespie County4 in 2008. However, this noble value is elusive in too many places in the United States, often operating as an unfunded mandate.

The United States is not alone in its belief that the right to counsel should apply in all criminal cases in which the accused’s liberty is at stake. Several other countries also share this core value. The United States is party to and involved in a regional system and international treaties that explicitly and implicitly require effective counsel for those accused of crimes. While there are complex debates around the extent to which the Uni

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