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52 U. Louisville L. Rev. Online 32 (2013)
The Gideon Decision: Constitutional Mandate or Empty Promise? A Fifty-Year Deal Under Fire
Stephen F. Hanlon*
Abstract

For 50 years now, with a few notable exceptions, courts, legislatures, governors, the organized bar and, yes, even public defenders, have brokered a deal about how to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right to counsel in criminal cases. Here’s the deal. Legislatures and other public funders would grossly underfund public defender organizations. Public defenders thus faced with grossly excessive caseloads would then triage these scarce resources, pushing more resources to more serious cases, but providing the illusion of a lawyer for thousands of clients with less serious charges, including misdemeanors and even felonies, in a “meet ‘em and plead ‘em” assembly line system of justice.

* Remarks of Stephen F. Hanlon at the 2013 Annual Kentucky Bar Association Convention. Chair, ABA’s Indigent Defense Advisory Group for the Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and former Pro Bono Partner at Holland & Knight, LLP.