“The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. ” –United States Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, “Gideon v. Wainwright” (1963) Introduction Gideon v. Wainwright was the quintessential Supreme Court decision that established the right to representation for the indigent in criminal cases.
The ruling covered all those charged with a felony in state court, and subsequent rulings have extended that right to any case that might result in imprisonment. Its ruling was a victory for civil liberties advocates and the American public at large. Indeed, Americans strongly support the precedent of right to counsel that Gideon helped solidify. Public opinion supports that this is a fundamental right afforded specifically by the 6th amendment to the Constitution. Unfortunately, there is persuasive evidence that Gideon’s Constitutional promise has not been fulfilled in many states and counties around the country.
Some fail to provide adequate funds, training, and staffing for public defender offices. Other areas do not even have public defender offices. Instead, they contract with the lowest bidder to provide representation for indigent defendants. Too often the result is representation that is so perfunctory or deficient as to amount to no representation at all To understand the true impact both within legally and sociologically, the Gideon decision must be examined through its Constitutionality, particularly how it challenged the interpretation of the 6th and 14th amendments.
As well, the influences and its effects on proceeding cases must also be explored. Perhaps the most important reason to study this particular case is to understand the impact it had socially and the resulting success or failures in its ideals and promises. Constitutional Intent The drafting of the Bill of Rights was a reaction to a number of states expressing concern that the Constitution did not do enough to protect individual rights and that it also lacked measures to prevent governmental intrusions and abuses of power.
In order to alleviate the fears and concerns regarding a potential for a runaway government, the founding fathers clarified their intentions within the aforementioned draft. Their intent was to protect, for all time, individual rights and liberties that would be free from government intrusion and interference. By establishing these new ideals, all citizens could be certain that the government could not cross without recourse. Thus, the founding fathers fostered public confidence in the newly formed government. The two amendments challenged through Gideon’s pretense were the 6th and 14th.
To summarize, the 6th amendment charged the government to protect its citizens who found themselves within the confines of the judicial system. In particular the right to a speedy and public trial, the right to trial by jury in the pertinent jurisdiction, the right to be informed regarding the nature and cause of the accusation, as well as to be aware of the accuser and most importantly to the case at hand, to have the assistance of counsel for matters of defense. The intent was to afford all defendants their reasonable and just right to a fair trial.