Next week will mark the 50th anniversary of the landmark decision that established the right to counsel for all Americans facing incarceration, regardless of their ability to pay.
In 1963, Memphian Abe Fortas was part of the legal team that successfully argued Gideon vs Wainwright before the U.S. Supreme Court. That decision held that the 6th Amendment provided the right to appointed counsel in state felony cases. The Court added that counsel for indigent defendents is an essential element of a “fair trial” and argued that states are responsible for meeting this mandate through the Fourteenth Amendment.
This decision would eventually be extended to anyone facing deprivation of liberty.
This is the charge of the Law Offices of the Shelby County Public Defender and all systems like it across the country. But 50 years after Gideon, has this promise of effective counsel for all been met?
Read our cover story in the most recent edition of the Memphis Bar Association magazine, Memphis Lawyer. You can read this article and the full issue of Memphis Lawyer here.
Or you can read a PDF version of our article below. Try it in Fullscreen mode!