52 Years after Gideon v. Wainwright

More than 50 years ago, a crude, hand-written letter from a Florida inmate forever changed the course of the American judicial system.

Clarence Earl Gideon, a native of Hannibal, Missouri, authored the petition which ultimately resulted in the landmark decision that guaranteed every American’s right to a lawyer. 2015 marks the 52nd anniversary of this landmark ruling and its effects are still felt today.

This U.S. Supreme Court decision handed down a little more than half a century ago led to the creation of the Missouri Public Defender System, making sure every individual has equal access to the law, regardless of income level, echoing former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black’s sentiment as expressed in his written opinion in the 1956 Griffin v. Illinois decision (351 US 12 1956):

“There can be no equal justice where the kind of trial a man gets depends on the amount of money he has.”

To learn more, view the case timeline or find related lesson plans about the landmark criminal procedure case Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), visit our event page Remembering Gideon.

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