Front and center as we are seeing today, the former President of the United States is headed towards a speedy trial for the obstruction charges he faces. As the pundits are reminding us, the right to an impartial and fair trial is available to all citizens of the United States, among them the former president. And the right to effective legal counsel is guaranteed by the constitution too. This right was not always guaranteed, but was imprinted into law in a 1963 landmark case, Gideon v. Wainwright, when the Supreme Court, after reading a hand written petition from an incarcerated person found that his right to a fair trial in was violated because the trial court in Florida denied him an attorney. Because of Gideon v. Wainwright the Supreme Court ruled that the constitution guarantees anyone accused of a felony the right to a defense attorney. The court also found that if a person is indigent, the state must appoint an attorney for them at public expense. This is the magnitude of effective legal representation that the high court placed upon this case.
However, there are still obstacles to obtaining the right to counsel to which Americans are constitutionally entitled. The ACLU recommends that the criminally charged should be provided an attorney prior to their arraignment, not after. This reform would mitigate the problem of defendents pleading guilty even before there is a formal arraignment, a situation that today denies many defendants their constitutional rights. Local and state governments must follow these rules even if they often say they are strapped for funding and cannot implement them. Governor Newsom, who has designated $10 million for a grant program for indigent defense in California has begun to address this substantial violation of constitutional rights. It's time to address this important matter through criminal justice reform.