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Half a century ago, after a Florida state trial court refused to appoint counsel to represent Clarence Earl Gideon for a non-capital felony offense, Mr. Gideon appealed pro se his conviction from prison, first to the Florida Supreme Court and then to the United States Supreme Court. In a handwritten certiorari petition, Gideon argued that he had been “denied the rights of the 4th, 5th and 14th amendments of the Bill of Rights.”
Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S. Ct. 792 (1963) emerged as a landmark case based in part on implicit proposition that the justice system must remain open to all citizens, including those without means, and regardless of the form or formality of their pleadings. Overruling Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455, 62 S. Ct. 1252 (1942), the Supreme Court reversed the Supreme Court of Florida and remanded, directing the lower court to provide counsel to Mr. Gideon.
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