The 50th anniversary of Gideon has occasioned a fresh flood of eloquence about the right to effective counsel (see links below) and a whole new crop of metaphors, but none more tailored to Michigan sensibilities than Justice Elena Kagan's. From the BLT:
Speaking before a standing-room only crowd in DOJ's Great Hall with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and former Vice President Walter Mondale, Kagan said the provision of a "Cadillac" lawyer isn't a right for poor defendants. But they should at least have a "Ford Taurus" defense, complete with a lawyer who has the skills, resources and competence necessary to thoroughly advise a client.
"We don't have the resources to make [a Cadillac defense] happen," Kagan said. "And I'm not sure if we did have the resources that that's exactly what we should want."
But even a Taurus defense is hard to come by, she said. In the five decades since the March 18, 1963, decision, states have faced challenges adhering to the high court's unanimous decision that found that "lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries." If a person facing a felony charge is too poor to hire a lawyer, the court ruled, the government is obligated to provide one for free. Subsequent decisions expanded the right to juvenile proceedings and certain misdemeanors.
Just a sample of other Gideon anniversary stories:
- ABA Journal: “The ‘Obvious Truth’: Gideon asserts only a lawyer’s advocacy can ensure a defendant a fair trial”
- ABA Journal: “Fifty years after Gideon, lawyers still struggle to provide counsel to the indigent”
- The Atlantic: "How Americans Lost the Right to Counsel"
- National Law Journal: “Gideon's promise still unfulfilled”
- NPR: 50 Years After Key Case, Problems Defending The Poor Persist
- NYT: The Times’s 1963 Article on the Gideon v. Wainwright Decision
- NYT: Right to Lawyer Can Be Empty Promise for Poor