Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Gideon's Trumpet - beginning of the decline

I just finished reading Gideon's Trumpet by Anthony Lewis. The book is a sort of legal history of the famous Supreme Court Case, Gideon v. Wainwright. In this case, the Supreme Court decided that an indigent defendant, accused of a crime, would be appointed an attorney if he could not afford one.

The year was 1963.

Prior to this Supreme Court decision, it was up to each individual state to determine their policies and procedures for representation. In Florida, where Gideon was accused and convicted of a crime, he had to represent himself. Of course, he lost. While he was in prison, he figured out how to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court decided to hear his case. As a result, the Supreme Court determined that the 6th and 14th amendment were intended to mean that all defendants must be represented by counsel in order to get a fair trial.

What I found interesting about this book was the absolute joy and enthusiasm that Anthony Lewis conveyed about the wonderful workings of the U.S. Judiciary system. He relishes the idea that a poor, somewhat pathetic man, like Clarence Earl Gideon, can have his day in court. Literally. Anthony Lewis is definitely an UBER fan of the U.S. system of government. He is almost like a sales person for the American judiciary.

The copyright on the book is 1963. Authors usually finish writing a book the year before the copyright, so probably Anthony Lewis finished it in 1962. In November of 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated.

I don't think anyone has written a positive, enthusiastic book about the U.S. Government since.

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