Press Releases

Conyers Honors 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright Decision

Washington, DC, March 15, 2013

 Fifty years ago, the United States Supreme Court decided, in a landmark unanimous ruling, that under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment state courts are required to provide an attorney for defendants in criminal cases who are unable to afford legal counsel. This requirement already existed under the 6th Amendment at the federal level, but was groundbreaking for extending the right to counsel to individuals at the state level. Following his participation in a ceremony hosted by Attorney General Eric Holder at the Department of Justice commemorating the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued the following statement:

“Today I am proud to join in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright.”

“Fair trials, wherein everyone - no matter their ability to pay - is equal before the law through the right to counsel, is at the core of our country’s judicial system.  The Supreme Court made history in recognizing this fundamental right, and extending it to defendants at the state level.

 "After the progeny of Gideon, almost fifty years later, our country still falls short of what the constitution requires.  Our justice system faces the great need of providing counsel to indigent defendants, and public defenders in our country handle excessive caseloads. Unfortunately, the budgetary sequester spending cuts of $1.6 billion to the Department of Justice endanger defendants’ constitutional right to counsel. In light of these challenging fiscal conditions, I applaud the Department of Justice and the attorney general for their leadership in affirming and upholding the promise of the Constitution to every American."