Gideon's Trumpet

Gideon's Trumpet

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Gideon's Trumpet
In Gideon's Trumpet Anthony Lewis documents Clarence Earl Gideon's struggle for a lawyer, during an era where it was not necessary in the due process to appoint an attorney to those convicted. Anthony Lewis was born in New York City on March 27th, 1927. As a prominent liberal, Lewis is responsible for several legal works such as, Make No Law: The Sullivan Case and the First Amendment, The Supreme Court and How It Works: The Story of the Gideon Case, and Portrait of a Decade: The Second American Revolution. Early in his career, Lewis began writing for the New York Times. Considered at "the far left of the spectrum" he is quite biased with regards to how much involvement the Supreme Court should have in our day-to-day lives. Generally, those who are liberal wish to change laws favoring the citizen, and obviously this carried over into Lewis's pro-stance towards Gideon's plea. The source that Lewis uses frequently throughout Gideon's Trumpet was the United States Reports. It was from these "reports" that Lewis incorporated other famous court cases such as the Bett v. Brady case. Others such as Adamson v. California and Powell v. Alabama were used but were mentioned briefly and barely explained. Lewis did an medicore job of incorporating these court cases relevant
ly to Gideon's Trumpet. In Gideon's Trumpet, Anthony Lewis documents steps that Gideon took to ensure he received justice. This began when Gideon first sent a respondence letter to the Supreme Court on Janurary 8th, 1962.

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This letter followed in forma pauperis which means since Gideon was too poor to pay the traditional fees, his petition could be handwritten (instead of typed) and then reviewed by the Clerk's office. In these letters Gideon exclaimed that he was "illegally imprisoned", due to the fact he was not represented in court by an attorney. He argued that even though he was a poor man a lawyer should have been appointed to his case. Gideon had followed the initial requirement that his case was brought to the Supreme court's attention within ninety days of his preliminary trial. He also mailed in a copy of his application for this petiton to a lower Florida court and evidence that the motion was denied. However, his main submission to the Sumpreme Court was a lenghthy five-page document that included a writ of certiorari—the wish to move his case to the Supreme Court from a lower court. Gideon had found his first hole between federal and state courts. This hole says that the Supreme Court has no power to "revise the decisions of the state courts." However, when state courts decide issues of federal law, the Supreme Court has the power to review state court decisions. In this way Gideon's case was finally noticed. I believe Lewis accomplished his goal of informing the public about how the due process was altered through the efforts of one couragous man—Clarence Earl Gideon. Lewis completed a detailed novel that was filled with legal cases that helped Gideon accomplish his goal. Although Lewis related previous court cases to Gideon's lawsuit, the court cases he used seemed to have little relevance
to Gideon's situation. It was confusing to the reader how relevant
the "previous court cases" fit in. For instance in the case of Betts v. Brady, Justice Owen J. Roberts said, "the Fourteenth Ammendment provided no universal
assurance of a lawyer's help in a state crimal trial." But later on Gideon's Trumpet mentions some "special cincumstances". These were if a man was illiterate, young, or mentally ill, this man would be appointed a lawyer. Also, then later on in the book where Gideon directly asked for a lawyer, the Court replies only those who had committed
a capital offense could be represented by a lawyer. It is very confusing to the reader which one of these laws were in affect and under what circumstances they were under.
Also, in my opinion the book left a large amount of information missing. Lewis started out with a petition arriving in the Supreme Court of the United States, and then followed that correspondence to the desk of assistant clerk of the Supreme Court, Micheal Rodak. However after that Lewis seemed to jump around in his ideas. He first went to how Gideon followed all the requirements set out by the Supreme Court. However at this point the reader barely knows that Gideon was denied the right to an atorney. Then the book leaves plenty of questions when it does not explain Gideon's crime for seventy pages. The reader then finds out later that then Gideon was charged with breaking and entering a building in Panama City. However, this is not explained until a twenty-two page letter is sent from Gideon to Fortas confessing to his past life which involved six children who were taken in and out of foster services, four wives, theft, and gambling. Despite all of his hardships Gideon eventually wins his suit and leaves jail a free man.
Gideon's Trumpet would definitely be useful to a law student or lawyer who needs a concrete example of how the Supreme Court can be changed by the average citizen in search of justice. Also, it introduced legal jargon through context clues and direct definitions that I know will be beneficial during this year. Although Gideon's Trumpet was not my favorite book of all time, I am glad I read it because it opened my eyes to how the people truly have the power.
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