Your Constitutional Right to Counsel

March 28, 2013

Fifty years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all criminal defendants had a constitutional right to counsel. Despite the outcome of Gideon v. Wainwright, upholding this legal right continues to be a struggle in North Carolina and beyond. Some of these struggles are a result of a severely overburdened public defender system. The executive director of North Carolina’s Office of Indigent Defense Services (and NCAJ member) Tom Maher led a successful symposium at Campbell School of Law on March 8 – focused on how the state can work to fulfill the promise of Gideon (program agenda). [Event video will be available on this website shortly.] As we mark the 50 year anniversary of this landmark case, it is important to examine both how far we have come and where we need to go to ensure high quality indigent defense in North Carolina, in both criminal and civil matters. For more, watch the documentary Gideon’s Army at the Full Frame Festival in Durham, NC, which will play on opening night on April 4. Also, experts have reflected on this important anniversary in the media, including the New York Times and NPR.