Saturday, February 12, 2005

Status of the Right to Counsel

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), holding that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee a defendant in a state criminal case the right to counsel, and that an attorney must be provided to an indigent defendant, who otherwise could not be assured a fair trial.

The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants held a series of public hearings in 2003 in which testimony was received from 32 witnesses familiar with the delivery of indigent defense services in 22 states representing a wide cross-section of regions, populations, and delivery systems. This week the committee released its report, "Gideon's Broken Promise: America's Continuing Quest for Equal Justice." The report concludes that, 40 years after Gideon, the legal system still fails to protect the rights of indigent defendants to properly trained and prepared defense counsel. The report also makes recommendations for improvement of the indigent defense system.

For more information about issues of indigent defense, visit the committee's web site

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