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Forum Post: 50 years later: Promise of Gideon goes unfulfilled

Posted 11 years ago on March 19, 2013, 10:50 a.m. EST by GirlFriday (17435)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Within the criminal defense bar, there is widespread agreement that Gideon's lofty promise has gone unfulfilled. The high court in a unanimous decision 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.

To state and local governments, the ruling has amounted to a massive unfunded mandate, one that they have struggled with — and sometimes resisted — ever since. Take Wisconsin, where private lawyers who are hired to represent indigent defendants are paid $40 an hour — unchanged since 1978. Or Louisville, Ky., where public defenders are each assigned nearly 500 cases a year. Or Maryland, where a state court of appeals last year ruled defendants are entitled to counsel at bail hearings — but rather than coming up with $28 million to pay for it, the state Legislature repealed the law instead.

"We've failed tragically to realize [Gideon's] promise because of the unwillingness of state and local governments to adequately fund the defense function," said Steven Benjamin, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "The system is broken. It can't be relied upon to protect innocent people from conviction."

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[-] 3 points by Builder (4202) 11 years ago

Isn't habeas corpus dead already?

Innocence or guilt has been removed from the whole court process.

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

Therefor, kick rocks?

With the AEDPA it took a dive.

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 11 years ago

I'm surprised at lots of things that are happening, but people in general are seemingly disinterested, or self-possessed. As long as its not happening to them, why worry? Fascism is coming. What's a poor boy to do?

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

Honestly? In some states the funding has been slashed very quietly. Now, to be fair it may not have been so quiet in their circles but it sure as hell is in our media. However, our media (and I use that term very loosely) will kick out articles from judges that are giving warnings that peoples rights are about to be violated if funding is not restored to the courts. I think that people are under the impression that the money for the public defenders is mixed in with that.

No lie--I sure did for a long time. Then I came across an article written by a frustrated public defender that explained that it was a separate funding that was being slashed. That was several years ago. It hasn't been until the last year and a half that there have been a plethora of articles dedicated to public defenders and the issues that they face written by public defenders or people with extensive knowledge.

This allows the people at the top, who know exactly what they are doing, to keep on intentionally, willfully, consciously continue to force the system to break down. Isn't that the name of the game? Faux privatization through the criminal justice system by quasi Libertarian policy? Privatize the cops? The jails? The judges? The prisons?

So, I agree, there is a "as long as it isn't happening to them, why worry" factor involved. I also think that there is simply a lack of knowledge and there are those that seek to take advantage of this.

[-] 3 points by Builder (4202) 11 years ago

Well said. I stand corrected.

Our Australian Legal Aid service (representation for the unfinancial) will only take on cases that they are clearly going to win. And in the Family court, (very busy these days, due to an unspoken drive to destabilize the family unit) cases are drawn out for years, usually until the value of any shared assetts is reduced to zero.

Thanks for your carefully thought-out input, GF.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

Thank you.

I saw you mention this the other day but, I cannot remember where. Could you explain this: due to an unspoken drive to destabilize the family unit?

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 11 years ago

Denied of course, by the gubbmint.

Children as young as fifteen are given financial assistance to basically divorce their parents, and move into their own place. No evidence of parental instability or abuse is required. The kid just rocks up to centrelink, fills out a form, and money starts appearing in their account, along with rent assistance, and a bond loan is offered to help them establish their own accommodation.

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

What is it disguised as?

[-] 2 points by Builder (4202) 11 years ago

It's not advertised nor disguised, but word travels fast these days.

[-] 2 points by ericweiss (575) 11 years ago

Henry Fonda in Gideon's Trumpet

[-] 2 points by factsrfun (8314) from Phoenix, AZ 11 years ago

95% are plead out, maybe this is one reason that happens, there is no justice in America, except on the TV.

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (8314) from Phoenix, AZ 11 years ago

This does raise an issue I have not heard directly addressed, to what extend should or does the Court have the right to "tax from the bench"? Judicial orders that require tax expenditures be they equal schools in AZ or equal defense anywhere.

I was just thinking about the post and realized it opens a wider question as well.

More directly to the post I would say only by supplying lawyers to both sides in all cases would we find fairness, only by forcing those with wealth into the same system will it be maintained robust, as with medicare. I don't think there is any chance of that in America, money being what it is, but I agree we could do a lot better.

[-] 1 points by factsrfun (8314) from Phoenix, AZ 11 years ago

Our legal system is designed to get poor people into prison as quickly and cheaply as possible, thus 95% just take a plea.


I know we already discussed this I'm not trying to bait you.

[-] 1 points by frovikleka (2563) from Island Heights, NJ 11 years ago

Alaska pays their public defenders much better than in most states, and although I don' know for sure, I strongly suspect that their case-load is not quite as overwhelming as most places

I also know that for one of her clients, she was able to call an expert witness up from Washington state at a cost of approximately $30,000 to the state

The last time I was in AK, I took care of my granddaughter during the days only

I told her though that if she ever has a case where she thinks her client is being screwed by the police or the prosecutor, and his freedom is on the line, well

Don't worry about the baby, do what you have to do, I've got the baby covered


[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

You said that before and whatever it is that they are doing is right but, they need to get on the ball in the lower 48.

[-] 1 points by frovikleka (2563) from Island Heights, NJ 11 years ago

I agree

Although there are a fair amount of Bible toting hypocritical asses in AK, they love their freedoms, hence their state constitution exceeds the US constituion by quite a bit

I can't think of the right wording, but you get my drift


[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

And no one cared.

After all, if you're a defendant you must be guilty. Prosecutors are never wrong.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

At this point, I don't think they do care.

Love to scream but don't really give a damn about how it works or what is available and more importantly what isn't.

And dang it..........it's really pissing me off.

[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

I know.

As much as they bitch about prisons, you'd think there would be even more concern with just how broken the system that's supposed to keep them out is.

That's the joke of Miranda rights. One will be provided for you. Sort of, maybe.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago


[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

Focus on issues like this have a decided tendency to fall into the laps of the budget cuts of the REDs and teabagge(R)s, so I guess they don't want to go there.

Too political? HAH!

It's ALL political.

And I do believe you and I also pointed that this is one more thing that's going to get A LOT worse because of the sequester.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

Ya, it's almost like, "Lemme see how many rights that I can trash in one shot."

[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

It's their (REDs) usual MO.

Cut funding until things are no longer effective.

Then they can complain about how ineffective government is, while denying that they had anything to do with it..

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

and then profit from it.

[-] -1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

Then send in ALEC to save the day..


Because you know we can't afford to "house" the "offenders".

They assured ALEC it would be so.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

Of course, that's what they are there for.

Is that not the perfect timing or what?

[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

Too perfect, not to be well planned.

The United States of ALEC.

Destroying Democracy, one State at a time, or now 'a' days all at once.

[-] 0 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

It seems as if they have sped up the process as fast as possible because they know they are on limited time.


[-] 0 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago

If your socks haven't rotted off yet?

This ought to do the job.

In fact it ought to prove that "right to work" is really all about destroying collective bargaining.


[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 11 years ago

Republican lawmakers have threatened for weeks to penalize schools for signing labor contracts that get around the right-to-work law, causing officials at Ferris State University to cease contract negotiations with its faculty that began before the Legislature fast-tracked the bills to the governor's desk in December.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130320/METRO/303200319#ixzz2O6FfV2sJ

And it will force an increase in tuition AND it will make sure that only the elite have access to education.

Where did the goat ropers go?

[-] 2 points by shoozTroll (17632) 11 years ago


Although I'm sure there's plenty in ALL the right to freeload states.

[-] -3 points by fanya11 (-35) 11 years ago

Bimbo Friday...spreading lies. Every defendant gets legal representation. No exceptions. what fucking planet are you living on bimbo?