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Marking Gideon's 40th

Gideon v. Wainwright Turns 40

Gideon’s Heroes

Gideon Events

Gideon Proclamations

Gideon Op-eds

Gideon Editorials and Articles

Gideon Resources

Useful Links

Gideon v. Wainwright Turns 40

March 18, 2003 marked the 40th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark case establishing the constitutional right to counsel for people accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Unfortunately, Gideon's promise is an empty one in many parts of the United States. Public defense systems lack funding and have impossible caseloads, resulting all too often in wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice.

To commemorate this landmark ruling, NLADA is working to raise awareness about the importance of Gideon’s promise and the extent to which it has still not been achieved.

Read our press release

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Gideon’s Heroes

Every month during the Gideon anniversary year of 2003, NLADA will be honoring "those who do justice to Gideon's promise" – by profiling a defender who has provided representation that lives up to the highest ideals of the right to counsel in America, and distributing it to national and local media.

December 2003: Lori James-Monroe (pdf, 59 Kb) Ph.D. Candidate in Public Health at Morgan State University
June 2003: Hon. George H. Ryan Former Illinois Governor
May 2003: Penny Marshall Federal Public Defender for the District of Delaware
April 2003: Roger Nell, Clarksville, Tennessee District Public Defender
March 2003: Georgia Chief Justice’s Commission on Indigent Defense
February 2003: Rodney Ellis, Texas State Senator
January 2003: Natasha Lapiner-Giresi, New York County Defender Services

Nominate a Gideon’s Hero
To nominate someone to become a Gideon's Hero, send an e-mail to NLADA's Defender Legal Services Division. Please include the following information:

  • Name of nominee
  • Describe one case exemplifying nominee's exceptional dedication, highlighting societal good (e.g., protecting the innocent, helping turn a client's life around, preventing a miscarriage of justice, improving the system)
  • Nominee's background -- human interest, not detailed resume (including, for example, if they are an attorney why they went to law school, why they became a public defense professional, what they do in their spare time)
  • About the nominee's office (number of staff, caseloads, rural/urban, character of community)
  • Contact information for nominee
  • Contact information for nominator
  • Important factors include diversity (geographic, type and size of defender program, racial, etc.) and triumph over adversity (e.g., lack of funding, judicial interference, police misconduct).

    Public Defense Fact Sheet accompanying Gideon’s Heroes campaign

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    Gideon Events

    E-mail us your office's Gideon anniversary celebration plans and we'll post them on the web to inform and inspire others

    November 13, 2003, Seattle, WA
    Sponsored by the American Bar Association, a special hearing convened in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Gideon v. Wainwright . A distinguished panel heard testimony from witnesses in various states to examine whether Gideon's promise of effective legal representation for indigent defendants is being achieved.
    Read the transcript of the hearing. (rtf, 152 Kb)

    March 14, 2003, New York, NY
    To mark the fortieth anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, distinguished practitioners Steven B. Bright, John J. Farmer, Jr., Abe Krash, Bryan A. Stevenson, and Jo-Ann Wallace gathered to assess how the decision has shaped indigent defense over the past four decades. They were joined by Jimmy Ray Bromgard who became the 111th person in the United States to be exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing.

    Gideon at 40: Facing the Crisis, Fulfilling the Promise
    March 18, 2003, Washington, DC
    A national symposium in Washington DC on March 18, 2003, included Anthony Lewis, author of Gideon’s Trumpet; Abe Krash, one of Clarence Earl Gideon’s attorneys before the Supreme Court; and experts such as Professor Yale Kamisar, Steve Bright and Bryan Stevenson.

    Document Gideon Tribute (msword, 20 Kb)
    March 18, 2003, Hartford, CT
    The Office of Chief Public Defender for the State of Connecticut held several events at the state Capitol for March 18, 2003 to celebrate the Right to Counsel on the 40th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright.

    Gideon v.Wainwright: A 40th Birthday Party
    March 18, 2003, Miami, FL
    The Florida Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys - Miami presented a birthday party in celebration of Gideon v. Wainwright sponsored by Dade County Public Defender, Federal Public Defender, S.D. Florida, Federal Bar Association, South. Florida Chapter, and Dade-Miami Criminal Justice Council. Special guests included: Professor John Hart Ely, law clerk to Abe Fortas; Professor Bruce R. Jacob, Florida Assistant Attorney General who briefed and argued the case against Gideon in the U.S. Supreme Court; Hon. W. Fred Turner, lawyer appointed to represent Gideon at his retrial; and Professor Bruce Rogow, frequent Supreme Court litigator who argued Argersinger v. Hamlin.

    Essay Contest
    March 18, 2003, Washington, DC
    The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) held an essay competition for senior public high school students in the District of Columbia in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the landmark case, Gideon v. Wainwright. Prizes were awarded during the Gideon v. Wainwright Essay Competition Awarding Ceremony on March 18, 2003, at the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. Read the winners.

    Document CELEBRATING THE 40th ANNIVERSARY OF GIDEON (msword, 58 Kb)
    March 18, 2003, Albany, NY
    Featuring "The Gideon Players," legislative visits, luncheon, client-defender speak out, and reception.

    March 19, 2003, Richmond, VA
    In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Gideon, the Virginia Indigent Defense Coalition held a news conference on Wednesday, March 19th at 10 a.m. in House Room 5 at the Virginia State Capitol. The Coalition issued a Virginia Public Defense System Report Card. The report card demonstrated the crisis state of Virginia's public defense delivery system.

    March 20, 2003, Seattle, WA
    The King County Council Law, Safety, and Human Services Committee hearing commemorating Gideon and praising public defenders.

    March 24, Vermillion, SD
    South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long, Minnehaha County Chief Public Defender Jeff Larson, and other guests conducted a panel discussion on Gideon v. Wainwright at the University of South Dakota School of Law.

    Gideon at 40: A Promise Within Reach
    March 27, 2003, Frankfort, KY
    Members of the entire Kentucky criminal justice community held a day-long brainstorming meeting to discussion the future of indigent defense in Kentucky. They created a 15 minute play with the Kentucky History Museum theatre based on Gideon and its effect on Kentucky. Performances: at the March 27th event, on May 2 at the Kentucky History Center (sponsored by the Kentucky Bar Association), and at the Kentucky Bar Association convention on June 12 in Louisville (followed by address by Anthony Lewis). Read the script of the play, If not Us, Then Who: A Celebration of Gideon v. Wainwright.

    March 28-29, Knoxville, TN
    A national celebration of the right to counsel, and the opening of the Community Law Office in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Community Law Office, a component of the Public Defender’s Office for the Sixth Judicial District of Tennessee, along with the University of Tennessee College of Law, co-sponsored the event. Other co-sponsors included: the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School, and the Kennedy School of Government, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management.

    April 29, 2003, New York, NY
    The Legal Aid Society hosted a breakfast on Tuesday, April 29th to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Gideon ruling.

    May 1, 2003, Wyoming
    Various public defenders throughout the state participated in law day activities at various local schools in the state, with emphasis on the 40th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright.

    October 1-3, 2003, Cheyene, WY
    The seminar will recognize the 40th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright and the 25th Anniversary of the Wyoming Public Defender Program (inaugurated on July 1, 1978). For information contact Ken Koski, State Public Defender.

    E-mail us your office's Gideon anniversary celebration plans and we'll post them on the web to inform and inspire others

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    Gideon Proclamations

    Model Gideon Proclamation: (msword, 22 Kb)
    Ask government policy-making bodies to proclaim March 18, 2003 as “Gideon Day” – either at the state level (Governor, state legislature, attorney general, supreme court) to the local level (mayor, county council, local chief judge, criminal justice coordinating council). Use it to recruit partners, design events, and write op-eds to build support for improved indigent defense.

    <Document 1045865361.4 not found> Issued on February 20 at the urging of Seattle/King County public defender Bob Boruchowitz, Governor Gary Locke proclaims March 18 as Gideon Day.

    State of Iowa, Office of the Governor: (rtf, 2 Mb) Iowa Governor Vilsack Proclaims March 18th as “Gideon Day” Iowa Marks 40th Anniversary of Landmark Supreme Court Decision on Right to Counsel for Poor People .

    City of Seattle, Office of the Mayor
    Mayor Nickels proclaims March 18 to be Clarence Earl Gideon Day.

    Document Yolo County, California Board of Supervsiors (pdf, 104 Kb)
    A resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright.

    Document Sacramento County, California Board of Supervisors (pdf, 89 Kb)
    A resolution proclaiming March 18 as Gideon Day

    Document Ventura County, California Board of Supervisors (pdf, 132 Kb)
    A resolution proclaiming March 18 as Gideon Day

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    Gideon Op-eds

    Stiffing of Legal Aid Undermines Justice
    by William J. Leahy, Chief Counsel, Committee for Public Defender Services, State of Massachusetts
    Boston Herald, February 18, 2003

    Anniversary of Gideon Case Spotlights Right to Court-appointed Attorney
    by Guest Columnist Robert C. Boruchowitz, Director, The Seattle/King County Defender Association
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 16, 2003

    New Rules Help Fulfill Promise of Fair Defense
    by John Bigelow, New Mexico Public Defender's Office
    Albuquerque Journal, March 17, 2003

    Vital Civil Liberties Anniversary is Today
    by Mark Arnold, Kern County, California Public Defender
    The Bakersfield Californian, March 17, 2003

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    Gideon Editorials and Articles

    No Hollywood Ending in Defending the Indigent
    The Virginian Pilot, March 28, 2003

    LEGISLATURE 2003: Quitting time near but much left to do
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 20, 2003

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    Gideon Resources

    Five Problems Facing Public Defense on the 40th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright

    Clarence Earl Gideon v. Wainwright - A Landmark in the Law. (pdf, 752 Kb) An informational brochure on the right to counsel and Connecticut Public Defenders

    Gideon Reviewed: The State of the Nation 40 Years Later
    An overview of the challenges to Gideon's Promise in 16 states.

    Gideon at 40: The Promise Comes With a Price Tag (msword, 30 Kb) Leadership column in NLADA’s magazine, The Cornerstone, by Rita Fry, outgoing ACCD Co-Chair and Cook County (Illinois) Chief Public Defender.

    Polling shows overwhelming support for right to counsel: The amount of justice you receive should not depend on the amount of money you have … and other powerful findings from national public opinion research conducted for NLADA.

    Document Relections on Gideon v. Wainwright (msword, 26 Kb)
    A statement by Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of the U.S. Senate, March 18, 2003.

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    Useful links

    History of the Right to Counsel in the U.S. – including link to Gideon ruling

    Special Gideon page of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

    Oyez Project: Case Summary, Docket & Oral Arguments

    Transcript & Oral Argument


    Abe Fortas Oral History (Available through the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum)

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