Next week is the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, one of the most famous Supreme Court cases in history. Clarence Earl Gideon had been convicted of theft in the State of Florida, and because he was too poor to hire an attorney, the State made him represent himself at trial. He of course lost. He went on to file a handwritten pro se petition to the Supreme Court who granted his case. The Court, in a landmark decision, held that indigent defendants must be provided an attorney. The modern right to counsel was thus born.
I had the pleasure of joining a panel today on HuffPo Live to discuss whether the promise of Gideon is being kept. The general consensus was no. Public defenders simply do not have sufficient funding and there caseloads are unconstitutionally burdensome.