July 17, 2008
The Right to Counsel in Criminal Cases, A National CrisisTwo years ago, on the fortieth anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright partnership -- funded by several organizations -- to consider the way in which the Sixth Amendment right to counsel actually functions in criminal cases throughout the United States. The concept was to create a truly national committee with participants from every relevant sector of the criminal justice system, which would conduct research throughout our country, advise our fellow citizens on the matter, and construct recommendations for reform. The authors serve as Reporters to the Committee.
The national research took about eighteen months and has now been completed by American University, Arnold & Porter LLP, and the College of William and Mary. The report and recommendations of the committee are nearing completion and are expected to be released in fall 2006. While the report will be written primarily for a non-lawyer audience of policymakers, this Article is more comprehensive. It covers the research in all fifty states -- something not done for more than three decades -- and lays out recommendations for change. The research reveals that the states face overarching, common issues in meeting the constitutional obligation established in Gideon v. Wainwright and in later federal and state cases. The report shows compelling evidence of a true constitutional crisis, as detailed in this Article. [Mark Godsey]
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