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The Champion

April 2003 , Page 61 

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Gideon’s Promise: The Texas Story

By Sen. Rodney Ellis, Hanna Liebman Dershowitz

As the United States celebrates the fortieth anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the state of Texas just saw the first anniversary of The Texas Fair Defense Act. While the nation commemorates the significance of Gideon, the state of Texas is just beginning to understand the importance of providing all people accused of crimes with a timely appointed and competent attorney. This past year, Texas has taken great strides in meeting the constitutional requirements of Gideon, but the path that the state took to get where we are today is a remarkable story.

How is it possible that Texas found it difficult to achieve meaningful reform when the ideals of Gideon have been enshrined in our law books and our national mores for almost four decades? The answer, in part, is that Gideon and other important Supreme Court decisions are not self-executing. They require the states and governments to bring full meaning to those decisions through hard work and legislation. Gideon was a proclamation, and

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