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Failing Gideon 

Failing Gideon

On March 18, 1963, a diminutive man accused of stealing $5 and soda from a pool hall threw himself at the mercy of the Supreme Court and changed the course of American history. Prior to this moment, Clarence Gideon had been sitting in jail, trying to overturn a five-year sentence he had received because he was too poor to pay for a lawyer. The Supreme Court sided with Gideon, declaring that those that could not afford counsel still had the right to receive one in criminal proceedings. Gideon would go on to be released and to die in obscurity, buried in an unmarked grave.

It's important to ask, however, as we pass the 53rd anniversary of this decision, whether Gideon would be better off in the legal system that has been crafted in the wake of the case that bears his name. The nation, and Arkansas in particular, is in a legal crisis. In January of last year, the Arkansas Public Defender Commission stated that the average public defender in the state handled 537 clients, far above the American Bar Association's recommendation that attorneys manage 200 misdemeanors or 150 felonies per year. In March 2015, a study found that in rural Arkansas counties, there were .44 lawyers per 1,000 residents, perilously below the national average of 4.11 lawyers per 1,000 residents. Cleveland County had no lawyers at all. A Brennan Center for Justice study in 2012 found that public defenders are so overworked that they can only average a meeting of six minutes per client. Appointed lawyers have become placeholders in a system that was supposed to provide the poor with equal opportunity of justice.

When deciding Gideon, Justice Black noted that, "[A]ny person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided to him." Unfortunately, as the public defender's office continues to be woefully underfunded in the current fiscal year, we as citizens of the state should take pause. As we watch our favorite police procedurals on television and hear that famous recitation, "You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney; if you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you," we should realize that we live in an age where those lines are becoming more and more like those dramas: works of fiction. And should we not act, the right to counsel for the poor, for those most at risk of incarceration and those who stand to lose the most, will end up just as Mr. Gideon: buried in obscurity.

James Colston

Fayetteville

From the web

In response to the Arkansas Blog post, "How the Walton education agenda harms public schools":

Just because your daddy was rich does not mean you know what is best for me.

In Arkansas, we have no democracy. We have rule by the 1 percent.

Paying Top Dollar for Legislators

Regressives have always declared war on education. An educated and informed electorate will always vote for progression. That scares the crap out of Republicans.

Errol Roberts

Absolutely despicable conduct by the charterists. They care nothing for the kids affected by this idiocy, they just want to own everything and everybody below their station. It is sad to see the billions of dollars spent on a concerted effort to continue and expand the divisions in our country rather than on positive steps to ensure the future of education for all.

ozarkrazo

Schools aren't bad because of the "rich." Schools are bad because the way children perform/act in school starts at home. Not at school. So all these inner city schools are filled with children that could not help being born with no dad, no mom, no discipline, etc. But the easy thing to do is "blame it on the rich." Why not start holding parents accountable for their own children? The schools that you are whining about are a direct reflection of the community it serves. Period. It all starts at home. It's no one's fault but the parents or lack thereof. Let's start blaming the real people responsible instead of who you liberals think is responsible.

anti liberal

It's beyond credulity that the Billionaire Boys Club cannot just create an alternative school system but do it with our tax dollars. Something constitutionally wrong with this picture.

JB

Anti, how exactly do you propose we hold those parents accountable? None of the eight different phone numbers on file are working, the emergency contacts do not answer, no one answers the door at home at 6 p.m., and DHS can't track them down, either. So, even when and if DHS takes custody, then what? Struggling parents, often mentally ill even ... how are you going to force them into caring for their children? Will you move in with them? I bet you also love ASA! and his plan to starve essential services. Family supports, more resources for DHS, more reliable and safe foster homes, more tax dollars to help are what is needed. How about we stop blaming struggling parents and start building healthy parents and children?

Yellowdogdaughter

In response to the Arkansas Blog post, "Report: Tom Cotton to join meeting with Donald Trump":

If Trump wants to curry favor with Cotton, he needs to memorize this sentence: "Under my administration, this country will take no shit off of anybody." Cotton would wet his pants upon hearing those words and would follow Trump to the ends of the Earth.

Olphart

If Trump picks Cotton as his VP, he better have two Secret Service agents assigned full-time to keep an eye on his back. Little Tom is far too ambitious for his intellect.

couldn't be better

Establishment Republicans know it will be a matter of months before President Trump is impeached and they might be ok with Cotton and therefore support a Trump nomination. President Cotton would be as dangerous if not more than Trump. At least Trump will want to be liked. All Cotton cares about is killing the bad guys and punishing Americans he doesn't like or care about.

Joshua Drake

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