University of Memphis Law School Launches New Magazine, Features Public Defense

Alumni magazines are often just that – magazines only alumni would read. The University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law set out to do something more.

Screenshot 2014-05-19 10.49.00This week, the school launched its new publication, Memphis Law (ML).  Dean Peter Letsou says the goal of the school’s new publication is to communicate with alumni, students, lawyers and other supporters.  But Letsou and his staff  had one more mission — to produce stories about the law that appeal to readers beyond the legal community.

The Shelby County Public Defender’s Office is proud to have produced the cover story for the launch of ML.

That’s the story of Abe Fortas, the native Memphian who argued the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), which established the right to counsel for all people facing incarceration, regardless of ability to pay, and spawned public defense systems across the country. Later, as a Supreme Court Justice, Fortas wrote the majority opinions in Kent v. United States (1966), which extended due process rights to children and In re Gault (1967), which provided children similar constitutional protections as adults.

Despite these and a remarkable list of other accomplishments, Fortas is but a footnote in Memphis history. You can read about his astounding rise to power and stunning fall from grace and find out why some believe it’s time to revisit Fortas’ place in Memphis history.

We also contributed an article about what the right to counsel looks like in Memphis, 50 years after the Gideon v. Wainwright decision. While that 1963 decision sparked a flurry of change in the criminal justice system, the resources to defend against three decades of tough-on-crime justice policies have not kept up. There is, however, a glimmer of hope that our country and community are rounding a corner in criminal justice reform.

You can read these articles and many more  stories in the online edition of ML.

 

Memphis Bar Association Highlights 50th Anniversary of Gideon, Public Defense in Shelby County

Law Offices of the Shelby County Public Defender lobby
Law Offices of the Shelby County Public Defender

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!

Digital Pull-Out from Memphis Lawyer magazine