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March 20, 2023

Arnold & Porter Celebrates the 60th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright

Defending Gideon: A Documentary

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision of Gideon v. Wainwright, which secured the constitutional right to counsel in criminal cases.

Arnold & Porter founding partner Abe Fortas represented Clarence Earl Gideon in the pivotal 1963 case, and that matter is central to our longstanding pro bono commitment. Arnold & Porter retired partner Abe Krash also played a key role on the team that represented Gideon, authoring the brief for Gideon v. Wainwright with Fortas. The Supreme Court appointed Fortas to represent Gideon, who had been convicted of burglary after his request for a court appointed lawyer was denied. The Gideon decision inspired several significant reforms in the representation of defendants who could not afford counsel. It became the established practice to appoint a lawyer for the accused in every felony case. The decision encouraged the growth throughout the country of public defender offices and led to more active participation by the bar in criminal cases in many states.

Arnold & Porter is proud of its long and storied history of pro bono work. Pro bono is a core value of Arnold & Porter and one of the important reasons many attorneys make Arnold & Porter their professional home. Our attorneys provided more than 130,000 hours of pro bono work during 2022. From our early days defending the rights of those persecuted during the McCarthy hearings and arguing for a right to counsel in Gideon v. Wainwright, to securing the right to vote in recent elections, we are driven to provide equal access to justice.