Simpler Justice

More than half a century ago, the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed free lawyers for all felony defendants who could not afford legal representation in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright. Yet too often, Gideon’s trumpet is muted. Far too many appointed criminal defense lawyers are overburdened. So they often plead their clients guilty as quickly as they can. The situation is even worse in civil cases, where parties have no right to appointed counsel. As a result, the poor and middle class often try to navigate the labyrinth of legal procedure on their own. Worse yet, many “lump it” and give up on trying to enforce their rights at all. Many reformers argue that the problem stems from a lack of money. Legal scholars and bar associations have long advocated more funding to hire more lawyers. On this view, Gideon and the cases that expanded the right to appointed counsel to misdemeanors reflect the 20th-century march of progress towards more lawyers and so more…

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