Gideon's Trumpet Analysis
Everyday people around the nation are brought to trial. The litigants may or may not have sufficient resources, but are still entitled to a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment. Clarence Earl Gideon was accused of felony by the state of Florida and did not have the money for attorney representation. Instead, Gideon had to approach the Florida court system blinded by the rules of litigation and unaware of the processes of making an argument. He was helpless and could not win the battle, eventually being sentenced to five years in prison. In America, people are supposed to be treated equal in the eyes of the law, yet Gideon’s circumstance was unjust. As he ultimately reached the Supreme Court of the United States, Gideon was given an attorney. However, here he challenged the state of Florida for his rights. According to Marc Galanter, there is no way that Gideon should have won the appeal in the Supreme Court. Gideon was a one-shooter, lacking resources. Despite Gideon’s loss in the state court, he still won his appeal in federal court system, shaping the law to impact society and showing that “the haves” do not “always come out ahead”. The “logic of the triad” is created with the basic function of resolving disputes in an orderly and efficient manner, applying the “rule of law”. The rule of law is “the norm or expectation that legal disputes will be resolved by pre-existing rules and procedures, regardless of the status of individual litigants”. Gideon’s status was not too desirable, both socially as a poor man and legally as a felon. With the Betts v. Brady (1942) ruling, litigants were guaranteed counsel under “special circumstances” (Gideon 8). Gideon, however, was really not a “special circumstance” if the rule of law is supposed to disregards status. Gideon was deprived of a lawyer. His inability to effectively communicate with the court brought him to an unjust disadvantage.
Gideon’s opponent, being the state of Florida, caused further
1. Cover, Robert, Justice Accused: Antislavery and the Judicial Process (1995), pp1-7.
2. Galanter, Marc, “Why the ‘Haves’ Come Out Ahead,”
The Structure of Procedure, 1974, pp199-211.
3. Lewis, Anthony, Gideon’s Trumpet, Random House, New York, 1964.