In a post here last week about the 5oth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, I asked why the Constitution requires the state to pay for a lawyer for defendants who cannot afford a lawyer. Here, we move on to another question: how does our society shoulder this burden?
We can answer that question in two ways.
The first answer is really an evaluation: we do not do it very well. I kept my eyes open for stories about Gideon in the media and on the web in the last couple of weeks, and I found none saying that we were doing a great job. Instead, the picture was bleak almost everywhere. The New York Times’ recent stories on Gideon (here and here) were typical, recounting stories of people whose difficulties were made worse by inadequate or non-existent legal defense. At…
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