Clarence Earl Gideon— an uneducated, 51-year-old man — told a Florida judge in 1961 that the United States Constitution guaranteed him a lawyer when the state charged him with a felony. In 1963, the US Supreme Court agreed. The Court recognized that without counsel even an intelligent and educated person may be put on trial without a proper charge or convicted upon incompetent evidence. The court said that anyone facing criminal proceedings "requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step." Gideon v Wainwright, 372 US 335 (1963). Read the complete set of motions and oral arguments by visiting Gideon v Wainwright Pleadings (NACDL).
The anniversary of the Court's decision on March 18 – Gideon Day – provides a focal point for NYSDA and other right-to-counsel advocates in seeking reform.
Gideon Day, March 18, 2016
The value and struggles of public defense received widespread attention during the 2016 Gideon anniversary thanks to a social media campaign led by the National Association for Public Defense highlighting "the first nationwide celebration of Public Defense Day." NYSDA participated by including the event in its March 17 edition of News Picks from NYSDA Staff as well as joining the social media campaign on Twitter (@NYSDefenders) and Facebook. An Albany Times Union column focused on pending legislation under which the State would pay public defense costs with the goal of improving public defense quality as well as easing county fiscal burdens. The column noted the comment of a former judge involved in the bill's creation that it "dovetails with the broader national debates about the negative societal impacts of mass incarceration as well as anger directed at a criminal justice system often perceived to be tilted against people of color, underscored by the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement."
Gideon Day, March 18, 2015
NYSDA marked Gideon Day with a press release celebrating the announcement that the court had approved the settlement reached in the right to counsel lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring v State of New York, and continuing to press the State to properly fund public defense services.
Gideon Day, March 18, 2014
Counties and NYSDA Say to New York State: Settle Hurrell-Harring Class Action Lawsuit; State Asked to Provide Mandate Relief and Quality Representation. NYSDA Press Release (NY), March 18, 2014
Gideon 50th Anniversary, 2013
During the golden anniversary year of Gideon, NYSDA and others highlighted the case as they called for improvements in client representation in New York and across the nation. Specifically, advocated for settlement of a pending lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring v State of New York et al, in a way that would lead New York into creation of a statewide, fully and adequately state funded public defense system headed by an Independent Public Defense Commission. The Gideon Anniversary Blog posts included news and musings, calls for advocacy, and reports on many things Gideon and public-defense related.
Gideon Day, March 18, 2009
The Campaign for an Independent Public Defense Commission and its hundreds of individual and organizational members, including NYSDA, filled the halls of government in Albany with blue t-shirted public defense clients and lawyers calling for a fully and adequately state-funded, statewide public defender system during the 2009 Gideon Day. While the full goal has yet to be realized, the momentum achieved then helped bring about creation of the Indigent Legal Services Office and Board in 2010.
Gideon Day, March 6, 2007
On this first Gideon Day after the report by Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye's Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense in 2006, a gathering in Albany to support the call for an overhaul of public defense services, including a takeover of this constitutional function by the State, was reported in, among other places, the Daily Record in Rochester, NY.
Gideon Day, March 15, 2005
NYSDA issued a press release regarding the need for increased public defense funds on the 42nd Anniversary of Gideon v Wainwright; media, including the Albany Times Union and the Schenectady Daily Gazette reported on the call for more state funding.
Gideon Day, March 16, 2004
Observing Gideon Day three months after a long-delayed increase in assigned counsel rates, the Gideon Coalition pointed out, as reported in the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester), that the increase, intended "to ease a crisis in finding qualified attorneys to defend poor people," had in some ways "made the problem worse by putting a bigger burden on cash-strapped county governments …."
Gideon Day, March 18, 2003
Videos From the Client-Defender Speak Out
In New York, the Gideon Coalition held events on March 18, 2003 to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Gideon and to underscore continuing problems in the provision of public defense services. A Client-Defender Speak Out held as part of the observance produced comments by attorneys and clients from around the state.