Many people observed National Public Defense Day on March 18. Yes, there’s a day on the calendar for everything, but this one’s important.
It honors the day in 1963 that the Supreme Court decided Gideon v. Wainwright: the case of a poor defendant who believed the Constitution promised him an effective lawyer if he was accused of a crime.
The man had just finished defending himself against burglary charges at trial, where he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison.
From prison, he petitioned the high court in pencil, and the Court said, you’re right, and gave him a new trial.
There, with a trained lawyer who cross-examined the case, he was acquitted after one hour of jury deliberation.
To further honor our national public-defense system, here are two readable, interesting explanations of why we need more public defenders as judges. Among other things, it would help ensure an independent judiciary, which is crucial to the checks and balances on which our rights and freedoms rely. And we don’t have to look far in the world around us to appreciate that, as we’ve covered here the last two weeks.