Thoughts After the Gideon Fifty Year Anniversay Gathering at DOJ

I was privileged to be invited to be at the gathering yesterday at the Dept of Justice to mark the 50th anniversay of Gideon v. Wainright.  The gathering was organized by the Access to Justice Initiative of DOJ.  Among those speaking were Justice Elena Kagan, former Vice President Walter Mondale, Nina Totenberg (NPR), Bill Leahy (NY Office of Indigent Legal Services) , retired Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb, Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Initiative), Eric Holder (Attorney General), and Deborah Leff (Acting Senior Counselor, Access Initiative.)

There was much of note — including Walter Mondale’s endorsement of Civil Gideon, Elena Kagan’s Solonomic decision that a defendant was entitled not to a Cadillac defense or a Nova defense, but a Taurus defense, Eric Holder’s announcement of some defense-oriented Federal grants and clear articulation of commitment to the Gideon vision, and Bill Leahy’s call for a National Commission on these issues.

However, what struck me most was Mondale’s reminder that Gideon had the impact it had not only because of the decision itself, but because Tony Lewis, by writing Gideon’s Trumpet, really popularized and gave force to the spirit and meaning of the decision.  It is an important lesson for all of us, with particularly immediate force for our follow up on Turner v. Rogers, which I believe holds great potential for building support for practical steps for 100% access to justice.

We need a whole army of trumpeters, to ensure that the meaning of Turner is clear, understood, and enforced.

I understand the video of the gathering will soon be available.

P.S. Judge Kevin Burke has a great history of Gideon and the failures to fulfill its promise here.



About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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