50th Anniversary Landmark Ruling

On March 18, 1963, Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, writing for a unanimous Court, ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that the states must provide an attorney to an indigent criminal defendant who cannot afford one. Before Gideon, the Court had held that such a requirement applied only to the federal government. With the fiftieth anniversary of that landmark decision, the NY Times reports in an article Rightto Lawyer Can Be Empty Promise for Poor that many legal officials say that the promise inherent in the Gideon ruling remains unfulfilled because so many legal needs still go unmet.

The Brooklyn Law School Library recently acquired the DVD version of Gideon’sTrumpet (KF9646 .G53 2000) for its audio-visual collection. Starring Henry Fonda as Clarence Earl Gideon and José Ferrer as Abe Fortas who argued the case before the Supreme Court, the film tells the true story of Gideon’s fight to be appointed counsel at the expense of the state that led to the Supreme Court’s decision extending this right to all criminal defendants. The film was based on Anthony Lewis’ book by Gideon’sTrumpet: How One Man, a Poor Prisoner, Took His Case to the Supreme Court – andChanged the Law of the United States (Call # KF9646 .L428) which is part of the BLS Library Main Collection.