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Defending Gideon

Posted By llad On July 27, 2015 @ 8:27 pm In | Comments Disabled

From: The Street Law Clinic at Georgetown University Law Center (lesson) and The Constitution Project (video)

This lesson begins with several student-centered introductory activities designed to help students understand the importance of an attorney in ensuring that a criminal defendant receives a fair trial:

  • Exercise 1 demonstrates how being able to understand and access the language of a system or proceeding can advantage a party over another party without similar access
  • Exercise 2 demonstrates how a coach or guide can significantly advantage a person who is unfamiliar with a system or task
  • Exercise 3 demonstrates how one team or person can be advantaged when that team or person is aware of special strategies or procedures to success
  • Exercise 4 demonstrates how there is a difference between providing a person with an advocate and ensuring that a person is provided with an effective advocate
  • Exercise 5 demonstrates how challenging it can be to remember the details and goals of an individual client when an advocate has multiple clients with different factual backgrounds and objectives as compared to the quality of advocacy available when an advocate has a limited number of clients

Students also participate in an activity that introduces a video. Debrief/ discussion questions are included. This film, Defending Gideon (31 minutes), weaves the Gideon v. Wainwright case with contemporary portraits of legal injustice and highlights the importance of a system that guarantees representation for all.

Defending Gideon Video: http://www.constitutionproject.org/publications-resources/defending-gideon/ [1]


  • Explain the importance of the right to an attorney for criminal defendants (due process/ fair trial)
  • Compare different processes and contrast fair and unfair structures
  • Distinguish between criminal and civil cases and discuss whether the right to an attorney should extend to civil cases

Defending Gideon Lesson: http://www.law.georgetown.edu/academics/academic-programs/clinical-programs/our-clinics/DC-Street-Law-Program/upload/Defending-Gideon-Lesson-Plan-Final.pdf

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[1] http://www.constitutionproject.org/publications-resources/defending-gideon/: http://www.constitutionproject.org/publications-resources/defending-gideon/

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