Gideon's Ghost: Providing the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel in Times of Budgetary Crisis
Heather Baxter, Gideon's Ghost: Providing the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel in Times of Budgetary Crisis, 2010 Michigan State Law Review 341 (2010). This Article discusses how the budget crisis, caused by the recent economic downturn, has created a constitutional crisis with regard to the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel. The landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright required states, under the Sixth Amendment, to provide free counsel to indigent criminal defendants. However, as a result of the current financial crisis, many of those who represent the indigent have found their funding cut dramatically. Consequently, Gideon survives, if at all, only as a ghostly shadow prowling the halls of criminal justice throughout the country. This Article analyzes specific budget cuts from various states and how those cuts have impacted indigent defense in this country. Further, the Article highlights recent litigation surrounding this issue from four states: Florida, New York, Michigan and Kentucky. It proposes that, while litigation may be one way to reform the system, fundamental reform is necessary in the criminal justice system. The Article offers three specific suggestions on how to bring Gideon back to life: change the tough on crime attitude to free up much needed funding; reform the overburdened misdemeanor system; and implore more prosecutorial discretion in charging crimes.