January 15th is the 50th anniversary of Supreme Court oral argument in Gideon v. Wainwright. The March 18, 1963, decision in Gideon established that the Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a federal criminal trial is fundamental and essential to a fair trial and thus extended to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment.
We have cassettes (!) of oral arguments in Gideon, in the law library stacks and in remote storage, but audio files and transcripts available online from the Oyez Project are considerably easier to access. Sections on Gideon v. Wainwright are included in Illustrated Great Decisions of the Supreme Court and Landmark Decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Gideon’s Trumpet, describing the story behind the case, is available in print and video.
The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid & Indigent Defendants has a webpage about the decision and its repercussions: Gideon at 50, Commemorating the Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. The ABA Section of Litigation will be live streaming a free program about Gideon on Friday, January 18th (beginning at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time).
Washington and Lee University’s Frances Lewis Law Center is one of several law schools to host a symposium on the topic: Gideon at 50: Reassessing the Right to Counsel. This is not the first anniversary to prompt assessments of Gideon’s impact. See 1999 Gerber Symposium: Gideon v. Wainwright (58 Maryland Law Review 1333 et seq. (1999)). Santa Clara Law Professor Uelmen wrote about Gideon on its 40th anniversary for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer’s journal, The Champion.