Friday, September 2, 2011
Nearly 50 years after the Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright established indigent defendants' constitutional right to counsel, poor people throughout the country still remain without a lawyer when first appearing before a judicial officer who determines pretrial liberty or bail. Absent counsel, low-income defendants unable to afford bail remain in jail for periods ranging from 3-70 days until assigned counsel appears in-court. Examining Walter Rothgery's wrongful prosecution, the article includes a national survey that informs readers about the limited right to counsel at the initial appearance and the extent of delay in each of the 50 states. The article also analyzes the Justices' response to the wrongfully accused and unrepresented Walter Rothgery, and provides insight into how the Court will likely decide the constitutional claim to counsel when it next faces the issue. It suggests that the amicus community's participation will likely assume an important role in the Supreme Court's ultimate ruling.