Liberals Abandoned Civil Legal Aid. Now They Need to Bring It Back.


Americans owe their fundamental right to legal counsel in criminal cases to a drifter who was buried in an unmarked grave. Clarence Gideon was accused of stealing beer, wine, and soda, and five bucks from a cigarette machine and $60 from a jukebox at a bar in 1961. Denied a lawyer by a judge and too poor to afford one, Gideon defended himself in court and lost. He was convicted of breaking and entering and grand larceny, and received five years in prison. He hit the books in the prison library and realized he was robbed of his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial and wrote, in pencil, on prison stationery, to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren about his case.