Monday, March 18, 2013

'Gideon' is 50 but Texas' right to counsel preceded it

Grits is headed to the capitol this morning for an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the US Supreme Court decision that enshrined the right to counsel in criminal cases as a constitutional mandate. Here are several notable media items related to the anniversary:
As Grits mentioned earlier, Texas beat the rest of the nation to the punch on this question. Notably, the right to counsel was enshrined in the state's 1876 Constitution in Article 1, Section 10, a notion that goes back to the 1836 "Declaration of Rights" articulating the reasons for secession from Mexico. A newly published history of the Texas Supreme Court mentioned (p. 65) that, in Calvin v. State (1860), the Texas Supreme Court ruled "the state had a duty to provide counsel for blacks who could not afford their own - a progressive notion that would not be enshrined in federal jurisprudence until more than a century later." Indeed, according to a recent article (pdf) in the Texas Bar Journal, "The earliest Texas statute spelling out [a right to counsel] in non-capital cases preceded Gideon by four years, but the practice of appointing counsel in felony cases had long existed. In requiring counsel in capital cases, Texas was ahead of the Supreme Court by at least 75 years."

That doesn't necessarily mean we're doing a great job on this issue today, especially given the massive caseloads carried by some appointed attorneys in major Texas cities. But I was certainly pleased to learn Texas was ahead of the rest of the country on this topic.


Anonymous said...

Big overview here, gets at important issues like plea bargaining:

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Good one, added it to the bullet list.

jmorais said...


best blog


Thomas R. Griffith said...

Hey Grits, hope you have a good time at the event.
While it's Gideon's B-Day and all, I'd like to stick an afterthought candle in for a good archival measure.

It was going to stand for the birthday of no bills / decisions addressing the Condoning of Plea Bargaining Abuse, but since it's mentioned above, I'll simply include: - *the B-Day of no bills / decisions addressing the right to a Legally Competent Counsel at all stages of a criminal investigation.

Any and all segments / niches of the legal profession (involving felony / misd. jury trials) being devoid of mandatory Credential Verification procedures is simply criminal at the jump. Thanks.

Thomas R. Griffith said...

*Those thinking that such a bill / decision aren’t needed are asked to ponder this - Hospitals don't allow Orderlies or Janitors to perform consultations and / or operations and it didn't take a bill / decision to block the unqualified from Dabbling.

With that, until the Legislature and the U.S.S.C. wakes the hell up, I'm calling on hospitals to stop discriminating against Orderlies & Janitors' right to operate without ample knowledge and / or experience. How hard can it be to replace a liver anyway? And while I'm on a friggin role, I'm going to advocate for the right for Landscapers to be able to perform Lasik on rainy days in the great state of confusion, aka: Texas. Thanks.