Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), in which the Court held that a state criminal defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The opinion states, in part:
The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.
Andrew Lewis tells Gideon’s story case in the legal classic, Gideon’s Trumpet—widely considered a must-read for law students.