Gideon v. Wainwright (1963) Alternate Final Exam Business Law

1. What Happened In This Case?

a. Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested for breaking and entering into a pool hall in Panama City, Florida. When he appeared in court, Gideon requested that the judge appoint him an attorney as he could not afford one. The judge refused as this was not a capital crime and therefore the court was not required to appoint an attorney. Gideon then proceeded to defend himself by giving an opening statement, calling witnesses on his behalf, cross examining the prosecution’s witnesses, refusing to testify against himself (5th amendment), and delivered a closing statement. He was found guilty and sentenced to 5 years in prison. While in prison, Gideon created an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court asking for a writ of Habeas Corpus, claiming that by being denied an attorney, he judge violated his 6th amendment rights. The Florida Supreme Court denied the appeal and Gideon began appealing to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari to obtain the records of the case. Gideon appealed to the supreme court in forma pauperis, meaning that due to his inability to afford the usual procedures he was allowed to proceed under special rules. The court assigned Abe Fortas to represent Gideon and present the case to the court.

2. Who are the Parties?

a. Clarence Earl Gideon

b. The Sate of Florida

3. What Facts are Important? Unimportant?

a. Important: Denied an attorney, forced to defend himself, appealed the both Florida State and U.S. Supreme Courts, Deals with 6th amendment rights in reference to states, could cause the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling of Betts v. Brady (1942)

b. Unimportant: Arrested for breaking and entering with intent to burglarize, sentenced to 5 years in prison

4. Briefly Summarize the Majority Opinion

a. Unanimous Decision. No one accused of a crime has to stand for trial in any court in the land without the benefit of counsel unless he or she specifically refuses it.

5. Briefly Summarize the Dissenting Opinion

a. Unanimous Decision. No dissenting opinion present.

6. Explain How This Decision in This Case Directly or Indirectly Affects Your Life

a. If I were to be arrested for a crime such as breaking and entering or theft, I can be assigned an attorney if I cannot afford one. This is very important as I may not be able to defend myself as well as someone who is well versed in law, such as a public defender. This can help my chances of being found not guilty.


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