Read Gideon's Trumpet: How One Man, a Poor Prisoner, Took His Case to the Supreme Court-And Changed the Law of the United States by AnthonyLewis Online


A history of the landmark case of Clarence Earl Gideon's fight for the right to legal counsel. Notes, table of cases, index. The classic backlist bestseller. More than 800,000 sold since its first pub date of 1964....

Title : Gideon's Trumpet: How One Man, a Poor Prisoner, Took His Case to the Supreme Court-And Changed the Law of the United States
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780679723127
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Gideon's Trumpet: How One Man, a Poor Prisoner, Took His Case to the Supreme Court-And Changed the Law of the United States Reviews

  • Matt
    2018-12-06 07:55

    A lot of different things helped push me down the road to law school. There's that scene in The Verdict when Paul Newman tells Charlotte Rampling about justice("See, the jury believes. The jury wants to believe...All of them...say, 'It's a sham, it's rigged, you can't fight city hall.' But when they step into that jury just barely see it in their eyes..."). There's also the (as yet unrealized) promise of financial security. Maybe the most noble motivator I had was Anthony Lewis's Gideon's Trumpet. Clarence Earl Gideon was a poor drifter with a criminal history. On June 3, 1961, he was accused of taking $5 and some beer from a Florida pool hall. He was put on trial, denied counsel, and forced to defend himself pro se. Unsurprisingly, he lost, and was sentenced to five years in prison. He sent a petition to the United States Supreme Court, which took his case. The result was a case known to all law students: Gideon vs. Wainwright. This was the case that gave life to the 6th Amendment, guaranteeing criminal defendants the right to counsel (since modified to require counsel if the defendant faces six months or more imprisonment). This is a fascinating book because too often, the important cases that come down from the Supreme Court feel like exercises in the arcane. The nine justices sit in their marble temple and exclaim from on high. They thread factual needles, maneuver through procedural morasses, and carve their rules one stultifying opinion at a time. You forget - they forget - that there are lives at stake. That their decisions don't only affect "the law", they affect people. Gideon's Trumpet is the story of a mostly-forgotten man that changed constitutional law. Anthony Lewis, who was a great writer for the New York Times, does an excellent job telling this story. I always enjoy reading books by journalists; whatever you sacrifice by not having an expert as the author, you get back in fact finding and narrative ability. At the time of the Gideon case, Lewis shows how the tide of history was flowing in favor of the defendant. This was the heyday of the Warren Court, which remembered that little item called the Bill of Rights, and how it was supposed to protect the People from the Government. The Court's direction was underlined by its decision to appoint the eminent Abe Fortas to represent Clarence Gideon. The Court had chosen someone of more than ordinary experience and ability to represent Gideon, and the honor carried with it a special responsibility. If that most basic right, to be represented by counsel, was now to be extended, to all those charged with serious crimes in any court, the justices would want all possible intellectual support for taking the step. Fortas saw his job as reaching each of the nine. The Supreme Court ruled in Gideon's favor. They found that the right to counsel is a fundamental right, necessary for there to be a fair trial. This ruling was made applicable to the states through incorporation by the Fourteenth Amendment. Gideon was granted a new trial and given a lawyer. The jury deliberated for one hour.And he won. The landscape of criminal law changed for the better post-Gideon. The Sixth Amendment has always given the right to counsel, but left out that thorny point about paying (and with lawyers, that's important). As Lewis points out, at the time of the decision, nearly 40 states already provided counsel for felony defendants. What Gideon did, however, was not only to provide attorneys for defendants in those other states, but to make the right to an attorney fundamental, and one that couldn't be taken away by a state having second thoughts. Moreover, many states had been appointing private attorneys to defend alleged criminals. This is like having a pediatrician doing surgery; sure, it might work out all right, and the basic training is there, but you really should have an expert. Gideon led to the rise of public defenders, providing the necessary bulwark against the expertise, manpower, and limitless resources of the state. In America, you are guilty as soon as you're arrested. That's just how things have evolved and there's no sense arguing otherwise. Still, it's good to remember, from time to time, that the Goddesss Justice holds a scale. On one side is the state, its prosecutors, investigators, police officers, and detectives. On the other side, for a period in 1963, was one man sitting in his prison cell scribbling a petition to the Supreme Court. This man balanced the scales. Gideon's Trumpet tells his story.

  • Russell
    2018-12-04 05:58

    I read this book before I went to law school. It was supposed to be the inspiring story of how we all came to have the right to an attorney.I thought it was dull and was actually the story of how a florida redneck who was arrested for burglary got in touch with a bunch of high powered attorneys with an agenda.Appellate law is not interesting even when it is novelized.

  • Kressel Housman
    2018-11-16 10:57

    For those who don't know, Gideon v. Wainwright was the landmark Supreme Court case that established the federal requirement for criminal courts to provide defense attorneys for the indigent. In other words, it's the reason we have public defenders today.The case began when Clarence Gideon, a poor white man sitting in a Florida prison for petty larceny, wrote to the Supreme Court that his 14th Amendment right to due process of law had been violated because the court that convicted him didn't provide him with a lawyer when he asked for one. At that time, courts would only appoint free attorneys under special circumstances, like capital crimes or blatant discrimination. Gideon's case did not meet those criteria. He was a white man accused of petty theft. So his case addressed the issue: is the right to an attorney a universal right as part of due process of law?What makes Gideon's story so inspiring is that it's a David and Goliath story. The Supreme Court rejects many more cases than it takes on, and that they chose Gideon's petition, which was handwritten in pencil and full of grammar and spelling errors, shows that the little man can sometimes get justice. The story was made into a TV movie starring Henry Fonda seventeen years later, and it's easy to understand why. Everyone loves to see the underdog triumph against the odds. But the book itself is much more educational than it is entertaining. As a matter of fact, it's pretty legalistic, and I don't think I would have had the patience for it without my paralegal education. But for all the legal history, there are some sections that humanize it: Gideon's original petition to the Supreme Court, Gideon's letter to his attorney telling the story of his life, and excerpts from the transcript of his final criminal trial in Florida. That mix of primary sources and author's commentary make it award-winning journalism, but as a reader, I would have liked even more primary sources. As the author said, our justice system gets hammered out based on the real interests of individuals, so the more we can hear of those individuals' voices, the better.One last tidbit of particular interest to me: Abe Fortas, the attorney who represented Gideon in the Supreme Court, was Jewish. The author of the book is also Jewish. So when it was all over (either the case or the research for the book; I'm not sure), Mr. Fortas presented Mr. Lewis with a shofar -the kind of "trumpet" the Biblical Gideon would have blown before battle. May Hashem surround His justice in mercy.

  • Frank Stein
    2018-12-06 07:51

    After reading this book, I understand why it has become a law-school staple for generations. First, and importantly, it's short, always necessary in book assignments. Second, it provides a concise and solid overview of how the Supreme Court "did its own work" in Brandeis's phrase (down to some now antiquated details, such as the dumbwaiter that carried briefs up and down in the head Clerk's office). Third, and more importantly, the book puts real human stories at it's center. There is Clarence Earl Gideon, the itinerant gambler and oft-convicted burglar who's handwritten plea to the court demanding assistance of counsel due to his indigence starts the whole process that leads to the historic case of Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), guaranteeing all criminal defendants such assistance. The author gives Gideon wide berth to tell his own tale, including by reproducing all 14 pages of Gideon's letter to his lawyer, which gives an ungrammatical but touching description of his own life. There is Abe Fortas, once the New Deal lawyer and wunderkind, at this point a successful corporate defender, but who would soon be appointed to (and soon after have to resign from) the Supreme Court. He is nominated as Gideon's advocate by his former friends on the bench Justices Black, Brennan, Douglas, and Warner, and the full force of his expensive law firm is put to compiling the perfect brief for what they knew to be an historic case. Ironically considering their clients, the man arguing against the indigent Gideon and for the State of Florida was much less accomplished. Bruce Jacob was a small-time prosecutor, still in his twenties when he took the appeal of the case. By the time it reached the Supreme Court he had just taken a job with a private firm, and was forced to work on this case in his spare time, with his wife as secretary, travelling long distances because his local law library had few of the necessary books. Finally, the book has survived because it places the case in the wider history of American civil liberties. Before reading this book, I had been a little baffled by the almost religious belief many lawyers had in the importance of a Sixth Amendment right to counsel, but this book helped explain why many at the time saw it as so crucial. Just as the Supreme Court was expanding defendants' rights to say, exclude illegally-obtained evidence or exclude coerced confessions, they knew that these rights would give defendants little solace if as many as 60%, according to one estimate of state courts, didn't have their own lawyer. The Supreme Court and others therefore saw the 6th Amendment right to counsel as in effect the guarantor of all other rights they were promulgating. Before Gideon, the Court in Betty v. Brady (1942) had already allowed for counsel in special circumstances, such as in capital cases or where racial animus was involved, and since 1950 they had turned down every conviction that had come to them without counsel, often based on vague issues like how a changed plea deal could prejudice the jury. The right to counsel was becoming an all-encompassing way to strike down whatever seemed wrong in a case, and Gideon at least cabined and defined these rights for all to see.The author, long-time New York Times Court reporter Anthony Lewis, does argue for what today would seem to be an undeniably naive view of the Supreme Court's role in American life. He claims that the Court, guided by the light of its own reason, unaffected by partisan or "regional" (read, Southern) political influences, would gradually help steer the country into the right path on all sorts of issues. Today, few would be so sanguine, or, for that matter, so dismissive of the "historical" interpretation of the Constitution (nobody seems to even be concerned that the 6th Amendment did not guarantee everybody counsel in either the 18th or 19th Century. In fact, the Court did not even use the 6th amendment at the time, but claimed without evidence that the due process clause just demanded free counsel). But the book still stands as a monument to solid reporting and the value of looking at individual cases to understand legal history.

  • Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
    2018-12-06 11:02

    The Law is never perfect. It's development is always detrmined by the thinking of the time. Once a principle is considered inapplicable at a certain stage of life, the experts are normally called in to give an opinion as to the relevance of it. This was the case when Gideon filed a motion at the United States Supreme Court arguing that his rights was infringed by a Florida court when he was denied Counsel during his criminal trial. Abe Fortas, acting for Gideon had to translate his arguments into the technical legal language required by law. He acted for him in the Supreme Court, having been appointed by the Judges at the time. He was a successful advocated. The State of Florida was represented by the Assistant attorney general Jacob Brown, who later went into private practice. Twenty three states appeared as friends of the court, buy argued for the overulling of Bretts vs. Brady. Only two states argued for the retention of the verdict. The court unanimously ruled in favor of a depature from the rule in Bretts vs. Brady. What remained is the practicality of having counsel in every criminal case a person faces.

  • Tom
    2018-11-20 08:32

    A very good read. Definitely gets one all rah-rah democracy and rah-rah constitution yet with nuance and thoughtfulness. Also, not one-sided as Lewis does a good job of showing Ass’t Attorney General Jacob as a sympathetic guy who really did believe that everyone has a right to counsel but ultimately believed more in states’ rights. I felt bad for the guy sending out a letter to all 50 states asking for an Amicus Brief to support Betts v. Brady but ending up getting Amicus Briefs from many of the states on the other side of Betts v. Brady. I’m not a lawyer so a few of the paragraphs required a bit of re-reading to make sure I was really following but, still, totally readable for a non-lawyer. Lewis might get a little lofty at the end, which is appropriate though it maybe goes on a for a bit too long.

  • Roger
    2018-11-18 06:45

    "...Gideon is something of a 'nut,' [and:] his maniacal distrust and suspicion lead him to the very borders of insanity. Upon the shoulders of such persons are our great rights carried." I'm a public defender for prison inmates. When I read the statement above in the epilogue, I was amused and relieved to learn that Gideon was a lot like many of my own clients.

  • Jocelyn
    2018-11-28 08:48

    No one today would argue against the fact that Gideon v. Wainwright had a positive impact on the legal system. People should have the right to an attorney and this book explains not only why, but also celebrates the fact that a poor prisoner could affect our law. In fact, "How one man, a poor prisoner, took his case to the Supreme Court-- and changed the law of the United States" sits over the title on the wonderfully designed cover of my edition of the book.However, I got a strange feeling while reading the book. It didn't really seem like Gideon had a whole to do with changing the law. He made the claim to the court, but as Anthony Lewis says, "The claim that Gideon presented to the Supreme Court was, in sum, one that the Court could hear. Whether the Court would hear it was another and very different question.If the Supreme Court had to hear every single case people in our nation wanted it to hear, then I agree with Lewis that the judicial process would most likely quickly break down. So how does the Court decide which cases to hear?As Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson says in 1949: "To remain effective, the Supreme Court must continue to decide only those cases which present questions whose resolution will have immediate importance far beyond the particular facts and parties involved. Those of you whose petitions for centiorari are granted by the Supreme Court will know, therefore, that you... represent not only your clients, but tremendously important principles, upon which are based the plans, hopes and aspirations of a great many people throughout the country."So, wait, is it really Gideon than that's actually changing things? Or is it the system that was developed to weed through the garbage and find these cases that are of "tremendously important principles."Lewis' book goes into all the valid reasons the Supreme Court won't hear cases. And, again, there are a lot of good to reasons not to bring a case to the Supreme Court. It's towards the end when I began to feel a bit uneasy. Lewis talks about "great currents of change" that can be felt. The words "timing and strategy" are thrown about. What bothers me is thinking about the cases that the Court refuses to hear because they aren't part of the current legal trend.Lewis then describes the honor of being asked to represent a poor man in the Supreme Court. It's a very well-off attorney, Abe Fortes, who gets this distinction. Lewis touches briefly on Gideon's fire and determination, but he devotes a whole chapter to the merits of Mr. Fortes and even the attorney representing the other side. At first, I got the feeling these people were all members of some kind of exclusive boys' club. But, since this was written in 1962, it was before minorities or women were major players in these kind of legal arenas. Ultimately, I decided the disparity I sensed is more about class. We are this elite, highly educated group of people who know what is best for you. And that is what the system is designed to produce and I have no idea how I would change it exactly, if I'd even want to.All in all, I'm left conflicted-- wondering if it's a misrepresentation to say this man changed the law. It seems to me that he's actually not that consequential in this story. The impression this book leaves is that the court had already decided this issue needed to be revisited and if it hadn't been him, they would have found someone else.

  • Catherine Woodman
    2018-11-27 06:34

    I have always been a reader, and whenever possible, I have tried to read what my children are reading. It started out with 'The Hungry Caterpillar', progressed to the Harry Potter series and now I am immersed in British Victorian novels and socio-political classics (which it turns out that I am no better at deciphering in my 50's than I was in my 20's) . So when my eldest son decided to go to law school, my husband and I encouraged him to read some of the recommended classics in the history of law, and pormised that we would read them as well.My very first book in this project to better prepare myself to be the mother of a lawyer related the history of the Supreme Court case 'Gideon vs. Wainwright', which was decided on March 18, 1963, exactly 50 years ago this week.While there are many many stories about what is wrong with America, this is a story about what is right. The book was written in 1964, and delineates the path that Gideon was able to take to actually get his case heard before the Supreme Court and the immediate implications that the decision had.Gideon was in prison when he brought his case forward. He had had several previous convictions and spent a percentage of his adult life behind bars. He was tried on a felony charge in Florida, and he asked for an attorney to represent him--he was refused. Gideon felt that he did not get a fair trial because he had to defend himself, but the Florida Supreme Court disagreed. Gideon did not ask for his aquittal nor did he ask to be retried. His contention was that he was not treated fairly, and a clerk who read all such petitions from those who cannot navigate the Supreme Court system in the ordinary way agreed with him. But a precedent, from as recently as 1942, disagreed with them--Betts vs. Brady was a case that upheld the right of states to make their own decision about legal representation. So Gideon's case faced an uphill battle.The story is very well told here, and is understandable to someone who has little knowledge of how the Supreme Court works. One high point is that when the attorney for Florida informs other state Attorney Generals that this case is going before the Supreme Court and asks them for an amicus curiae brief in support of states rights in this matter, 23 states respond with an amicus curiae brief in support of Gideon instead. That warmed my heart. The implications of the Gideon case were far reaching--when the court decided that all defendents should have access to an attorney, regardless of their ability to pay, it necessitated the devlopment of the public defender system, which up until that point did not exist, and it required the development of a way to pay for such a system as well. It didn't solve all the problems with criminal jurisprudence, but it certainly righted one wrong--and not all that long ago.

  • kimberly
    2018-11-27 07:44

    Often, I am discouraged with my profession. The slow-moving machinary of the judiciary is not perfect, but both Gideon and To Kill a Mockingbird remind me why I'm a lawyer. I wish I had read Gideon before starting my clerkship. For one reason, we had an entire right to counsel issue that I would have understood better after this book. Additionally, it discusses the role of a law clerk and how the judicial system works. Dude, this is more helpful than my staff attorney manual! But most of all, I love this book because it inspired me. The author discussed how unlike the legislature that makes rules based on wide populations, the judicial system is about one person, case by case. The assertion by one man that the constitution requires counsel for all, not just those who can afford it, instituted a sweeping change in criminal procedure, federalism, and state's rights. It takes Florida continously fucking things up for the Supreme's to fix the impractical application of Betts v. Brady.Things that I'm still working through: bond issues. We deprive people of their freedom when arrested on suspicion of a crime because we want to ensure they will stand trial and to protect the community from dangerous elements. How does this factor in awarding bail? If someone can afford it, they are released from prison. Gideon talks about a study where indigent prisoners released without bail showed up to court in the same percentages as defendants who were released on bail. Clearly, the use of bail doesn't guarantee a person won't abscond or commit new law violations. This is something I need to work through . . . including judges denying bail on all VOPs. I want to write books like this one day.

  • zltg
    2018-11-27 05:44

    There is no illusion at all that Gideon is a hero or he did not owe his victory entirely to the legal and social momentum, which were outside of his control and already pointing to overturn Betts. But it is also worthwhile to remember the facts here, that man like him, an outcast at the very bottom of the society, had the tenacity and courage to pursue what he deemed just and not gave up hope. My eyes got wet when first looked at Gideon's pencil-written petition for cert on prison mail paper. This was one of the rare moments in history where the weak vindicated and the wrong righted.Anthony Lewis did a fantastic job elucidating the legal background and reasoning as he told the extraordinary history behind this case."If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in prison with a pencil and paper to write a letter to the Supreme Court; and if the Supreme Court had not taken the trouble to look at the merits in that one crude petition among all the bundles of mail it must receive every day, the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed. But Gideon did write that letter; the court did look into his case; he was re-tried with the help of competent defense counsel; found not guilty and released from prison after two years of punishment for a crime he did not commit. And the whole course of legal history has been changed." (Robert F. Kennedy)

  • Judy
    2018-12-10 10:56

    The news this week of the death of Anthony Lewis at age 85 was enough to send me scurrying to the bookcase to dig out my copy of Gideon's Trumpet and reread it. Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested in Florida on a charge of breaking and entering and he was forced to represent himself at his trial because he couldn't afford an attorney. Gideon felt that this was a violation of his constitutional right to be represented by counsel and while he was in a Florida prison he sat down and wrote a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court justices considered his petition in a Friday conference and decided to issue such a writ. This book follows the case of Clarence Earl Gideon through the judicial system culminating in the Supreme Court decision Gideon v. Wainwright which decided that every person has the right to be represented by counsel in a court of law and created the public defendant systems across the United States. As Anthony Lewis put it "the victory of Clarence Earl Gideon shows that even the poorest and least powerful of men--a convict with not even a friend to visit him in prison--can take his case to the highest court in the land and bring about a fundamental change in the law." This book puts a human face on each of the players in the case and ultimately reads like a novel. Highly recommended.

  • Bob
    2018-12-03 09:33

    Of course I've known about Gideon vs. Wainwright since I was in high school in the 1960s, and I studied the case in law school and taught it in my Constitution and Law class - but I had never read Anthony Lewis' classic until now. In language that any reader can readily grasp, he not only paints a portrait of Gideon, the real human being whose criminal conviction was overturned, but he also provides an elegant perspective on the historical and legal evolution of the Supreme Court's thinking on the subject of a criminal defendant's right to counsel. Lewis also provides an excellent historical perspective on the developing role of the Supreme Court in our systems of government - both federal and state. A very good book for high school civics classrooms.

  • Marilee
    2018-12-06 11:01

    This is on my son's AP Gov reading list. I got about halfway through it when my son commandeered it and inhaled it in two days. I finally snagged it back and finished it. It tells the fascinating story of a man in jail in the early sixties who had been denied representation in his original court case. He eventually worked his way to the Supreme Court and fought for man's right to counsel. It's a little dry at the beginning as it lays the foundation of the case and describes the members of the Supreme Court at the time. The book was only written a year or two after the case, so the details are very fresh. I think it helped solidify my son's desire to go into law.

  • Emily
    2018-12-09 02:39

    I didn't realize that this book was written back in the day until the author started talking about how SCOTUS is a bunch of old white guys. Anyway, I enjoyed the read overall and the occasional old-timey aside.Public defenders in particular will appreciate the coda on Gideon's second trial, where he chose to go pro se on some pretrial motions:- asserted that double jeopardy prohibited a new trial (it didn't)- argued that the statute of limitations had run and second trial was unlawful (it wasn't)Asked some ACLU attorneys to represent him and then fired them on the day of trial. Verdict: Not guilty!

  • Ted
    2018-12-04 02:48

    Terrific book. I had never read anything about our Supreme Court and this turned out to be a great start. This is a pretty incredible story about one man who, without the help of a lawyer, appealed his case to the highest court in the land and eventually won. The accused's right to a lawyer, and thus due process, would be considered as fundamental as any other. However, up until this case, states had a free hand to decide when an indigent defendant would be afforded one by the state. The author succeeds in providing an excellent description of how the Supreme Court works and judges reach a decision. Worth a read.

  • Diane
    2018-11-20 05:58

    I read this in preparation for a continuing legal education class which will involve discussion of the book. I was not looking forward to reading it as I suspected it would be very dry and difficult to plough through. It was actually a very easy read. The author wrote in a manner which would allow a lay person to understand the Supreme Court appellate process, and effectively personalized the Gideon v. Wainwright decision. I think this would be a great book for law students to read, and is also great for anyone who wants to understand more about how the legal system works.

  • Stephen
    2018-12-11 08:37

    I am going through bookshelves, clearing out for summer book sales at the two public libraries that I support. This may go into that bag! I read this the second semester of my first year in graduate school - at the start of a class in planning law - boring! That is all I remember, but I guess now that the SCOTUS is so much in the news, it is important to realize that this decision, Gideon v. Wainwright did more to change constitutional law than probably any other case. Something that certainly is under attack as the court because politicized. Sad day.

  • Amanda
    2018-11-23 10:47

    Had to read as research for a loved one who's considering law. Recommended to me by a lawyer I respect. A great read for anyone considering law. Terrific story. If the reader is not a lawyer, it gets dry in the middle, but definitely plow through to the ending of the tale. All true. All heartening.

  • Stefani
    2018-12-06 09:43

    The first book I have read for law school since A Civil Action in 1L that wasn't a case book or supplement.Whew. Law school should require more books like this. It is the story of how the right to representation for the indigent in all criminal cases was codified by the Supreme Court.Somewhat uplifting, somewhat depressing.

  • Josh Davis
    2018-12-03 06:47

    An amazing account of the different that one man can make.

  • Ashtynne
    2018-11-22 09:46

    A Call For Justice and Due Process of Law For All Regardless of Wealth In order for a civilized society to function properly, there must be laws regulating the influence of the government to ensure it does not overstep into the daily life of citizens. The Constitution, for example, has been the backbone of American society since its detachment from the monarchy in Britain. Only after 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, were Americans guaranteed “certain inalienable rights” like the freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Since then, times have changed creating confusion when understanding the laws written more than 200 years ago. The role of the United States Supreme Court is to interpret those laws and protect civil rights from being violated under the Bill of Rights. It is the highest court that serves as the last resort for justice. Clarence Earl Gideon, a fifty year old white man, was searching for a last resort for justice when he filed for a Writ of Certiorari from his prison cell in the Florida State Penitentiary. He was recently charged and convicted of breaking and entering to commit a misdemeanor in the Bay Harbor Poolroom on June 3, 1961. Gideon was an easy target to pin this crime on based on his previous criminal record and frequent visits to that Poolroom. The only sealing piece of evidence in the trial was an unreliable eyewitness testimony that could have easily been refuted by a lawyer. Unfortunately, Gideon was too poor to afford a lawyer and, upon requested to the court, he was denied one. Consequently, he was convicted of a crime that for once, he did not do. Thus begins the historic case of Gideon vs Wainwright: a fight for due process of law regardless of wealth and status. Though this book, Gideon’s Trumpet, written by Anthony Lewis, is based on this monumental case, that is not its sole focus. This book goes into great depths about the rich history of the Supreme Court the great responsibility it holds. It talks about the grueling process of how to get a case presented to the Supreme Court and what happens once a case makes it there. I thought this book was very interesting and covered years worth of history and knowledge in just over 200 pages. The author clearly took the time to familiarize himself with all the necessary information to compile it into a sophisticated and thorough novel. It is very well written and goes into great depths about each topic encountered throughout the court’s proceedings. My one critique of this book is that it is difficult to follow at times. There are very complicated terms and procedures of the Supreme Court and it is hard to stay engaged during long chapters about those topics. It is not an easy read by any stretch but it is worth the time and energy for those readers captivated by history and law.

  • Walter
    2018-11-19 06:50

    Many of us who are not attorneys tend to think of the law as the stuff of dusty bookshelves in the offices of lawyers and judges. But, in fact, all of us are affected by the law, and it is never a bad thing to learn a thing or two about how law is made and changed. In "Gideon's Trumpet", Anthony Lewis tells the compelling story about an indigent Florida prisoner who wrote a letter in pencil to the Supreme Court asking that his case be reviewed. The result of this process was the Supreme Court decision that required all felony defendants to be provided an attorney even if they can't afford one. This story is well written and interesting from the very beginning. The book traces the lives of the attorneys, the high powered Washington attorney who was appointed to advocate for Gideon as well as the former Florida District Attorney who carried the torch for the State of Florida. Lewis discusses all of the nuances of the legal process and how the Supreme Court processes cases and makes decisions. It is really quite an extraordinary book about an extraordinary institution that affects the lives of us all.My only criticism of the book is that it didn't delve enough into the human elements of the story. We don't know a whole lot about Gideon the defendant and little about the personal lives of the attorneys. This would have added depth and more human interest to the story. But for those who like a good legal thriller or who are interested in the law, I would highly recommend this classic work.

  • Kim
    2018-11-15 10:38

    For anyone interested in the process involved in overruling a Supreme Court decision, this is the book to read. Also recommended for anyone interested in the evolution of the right to counsel and other procedural due process rights. For 21 years, Betts v. Brady, 316 U.S. 455 (1942), was the controlling decision of the Supreme Court granting the right to counsel of indigent persons only upon a showing of vaguely-defined "special circumstances." By 1963, the Court had been moving toward a re-evaluation of that ruling, which was realized in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963). This book recites the process, the legal arguments, and the practical considerations that moved the Court to unanimously rule that "the framers of the Constitution placed a high value on the right of the accused to have the means to put up a proper defense, and the state as well as federal courts must respect that right. The Court held that it was consistent with the Constitution to require state courts to appoint attorneys for defendants who could not afford to retain counsel on their own." Gideon v. Wainwright. (n.d.). Oyez. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from

  • Danielle
    2018-11-30 10:50

    I thought this was an interesting recount of Gideon v. Wainwright, especially considering that it was published relatively soon after the actual trial.Gideon isn't really a trial I would've chosen to read about on my own, but I learned a lot about the case, like how this instance of criminal rights was something that had the support of half the country, or how the respondent was only involved by name, and only after the case. It made me care about criminal rights, which I do care about, but not as passionately as other parts of politics.That said, I thought the book was kind of dated, especially with how male-dominated and -assumed everything was at the time. It's still a really comprehensive account of the case, but you also have to take into account that it was written during the same time period when we were debating whether people deserve required counsel at their trial. The language and ideas are just out of touch, even as they cover this landmark case.

  • Liam
    2018-12-08 07:58

    "'It is not a needle we are looking for in these stacks of papers, but the rights of a human being.'" (quoting Illinois Supreme Court Justice Walter V. Schaefer, 36)"The rule of special circumstances 'involves federal supervision over the state courts in its most noxious form. In effect, the federal courts are given a roving commission to scrutinize the proceeding in the state court to see if it is "shocking to the universal sense of justice."'" (quoting Fortas' brief on Betts v. Brady, 142)"'It has become almost axiomatic that the great rights which are secured for all of us by the Bill of Rights are constantly tested and retested in the courts by the people who live in the bottom of society's barrel. Thus, many of our freedom-of-religion cases developed out of efforts by members of small sects to force religious tracts upon people who did not want them; our freedom-of-speech cases have developed from the efforts of the police to jail persons who ranted and raved against others, including Catholics, Jews and Negroes.'" (quoting an ACLU report on Gideon, "How the Florida Civil Liberties Union Wasted $300, and How Two Attorneys Each Traveled over 1200 Miles and Killed an Otherwise Perfectly Enjoyable July Fourth Weekend," 239)

  • Stacy
    2018-12-07 06:33

    A classic, though jarring to read today what with the time period-appropriate references to "Negroes," plus only referring to the "men" of the Supreme Court and legal profession. (Also weird to hear repeated references to how there was no specialized Supreme Court bar, since SCOTUS litigation is a definite specialty nowadays.) I can't help but compare how many of Gideon's legal arguments also apply to respondents appearing before immigration courts (with the added hurdle of often not understanding English!) - I can only hope that one day I'll be reading the book that describes the landmark case that finally provided public defender-esque required counsel to all immigration court respondents...

  • Christopher
    2018-11-16 04:39

    While it is both frustrating and saddening to see what has changed, and what has stayed the same since 1989, Lewis' accounting of Gideon v. Cohchran, from its unlikely beginnings to its ultimate historical event as Gideon v. Wainright is clear and informative. Gideon's Trumpet highlights the circumstances surrounding the famous verdict that few ever learn of-- the long and tortuous path of the Supreme Court (and the various state courts) towards a universal right to counsel, the Herculean efforts of Arnold, Fortas, & Porter (the firm that undertook Gideon's appeal to the Supreme Court), and the human story of Clarence Gideon in all his irascible tenacity.Keeping both human and societal timelines accessible at once is no small task, and Lewis' book succeeds handily in this regard.

  • Mike
    2018-11-25 04:48

    Entertaining account a watershed case with only a couple observations which are either dated or wrong. I don't think the Supreme Court practitioners are "mediocre" as claimed on page 47. I understand that the number of attorneys actually appearing before the court tend to specialize in this due to the highly particularized etiquette of argument. Lewis further claims that Justices are more interested in arguments which "stick to homely, factual arguments." Page 172. I have occasion to listen to audio of Supreme Court arguments and this too would appear to be either dated or just wrong. On the story about Gideon and how the case developed and the particular hurdles faced by both sides, I found the book very engaging and will make this famous case all the more memorable.

  • Peg Lotvin
    2018-12-09 07:59

    Maybe three and a half stars. I liked it but didn't quite make it to really liked it. I was bullied into this by my book group. Our meeting is tomorrow and I will be interested to hear what the group has to say. I think this is one of the densest books I have ever read though it is very readable. No scanning or reading ahead allowed. It is really a lesson in how the Supreme Court works mixed with the nuts and bolts of a really important decision made by the Court in reversing a prior decision by the same Court. The Supreme Court is not infallable after all.