Course - Law


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This seminar will critically examine the ways in which our system provides a defense to both those accused and convicted of criminal offenses.  The seminar will consider the strengths and weaknesses of different types of systems, examine longstanding and new efforts at reform, and explore potential avenues for improving the quality of our systems of criminal defense.  The ultimate goal is to understand the relative merits of different systems, to understand the political and social dynamics that have led to different systems in different places and times, and to explore experimental and potential new ways to provide (and to fund) high quality defense counsel.


In Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), the United States Supreme Court held that the Sixth Amendment, applied to the states through the 14th amendment, mandates the appointment of government-funded defense counsel to those who cannot afford a lawyer.  The decision has been both expanded and qualified in later federal and state decisions and statutes.    


The roots of the mandate to provide counsel to those who could not afford one extend to early in the 20th century, with the creation of the first public defender in Los Angeles in the 19-teens, and with the increasing recognition by US courts that attorneys were not a luxury but a requirement for a decent and just legal system.


But, as multiple reports over the almost 50 years since Gideon was decided note, grave doubt exists that the “promise of Gideon” has been fulfilled. 


To be provided.

Course Format

The heart of this class will be critical reading and active discussion.

Written Assignments

One analytical writing.

Type of Exam


Basis for grading

One analytical writing, the oral presentation of that writing, and class participation.

Additional Comments

To maintain and improve our criminal justice system, a critical need exists for skilled defense attorneys and ideas to create, implement, and maintain the systemic delivery of defense services.

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