Upcoming 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright

In preparation for the upcoming 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the National Equal Justice Library, within Georgetown Law Library, would like to highlight a few unique materials from our collections that relate to the history of the case, and that document its impact on the development of public defender systems in the United States.

On March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that states had the obligation to provide counsel for defendants who are unable to afford an attorney, extending the Constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases to poor and low-income people. By highlighting the responsibility of the government to provide legal counsel to low-income Americans, Gideon was a landmark case in the equal justice movement in the United States, paving the way for the creation and expansion of the public defender system in the country.

Among the unique NEJL materials are oral history interviews with several key participants in the case, including an interview with Abe Krash, who worked closely with Abe Fortas on Gideon’s defense team, and an interview with Bruce Jacob, who argued against Gideon on behalf of the State of Florida as a young Assistant Attorney General. Transcripts of both interviews are available online at: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/library/collections/nejl/oral-histories.cfm

The collection also includes an interview with Anthony Lewis, the author of Gideon’s Trumpet (1964), who followed the case as a reporter, and David Rintel’s movie script of Gideon’s Trumpet, as well as some still pictures and advertisements of the 1980 movie featuring Henry Fonda as Clarence Gideon. In addition, the NEJL holds a set of photocopies of original documents from the case, including copies of Clarence Gideon’s petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court of Florida, and transcripts from the State of Florida v. Clarence Earl Gideon (1962).

Collections documenting the development and state of indigent criminal defense in the United States include the papers of James Doherty, who served as Public Defender of Cook County, Illinois, the papers of Sheldon Portman, the former Public Defender of Santa Clara County, CA, and the papers the papers of Marshall Hartman, one of the leading figures of the public defender movement in the United States. Special Collections also holds the papers of General Charles L. Decker, a Georgetown Law graduate, who was a key participant in the drafting of the Model Defender Act of 1970, and the Director of the National Defender Project of the NLADA.

Researchers are welcome to visit the NEJL, and our Special Collections Department.

Contact: Katharina Hering, NEJL Project Archivist kh781@law.georgetown.edu 202-662-4043 (NEJL)
Special Collections Department: specl@law.georgetown.edu 202-662-9149

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