In contrast to earlier periods when elite lawyers expressed skepticism of the public defender, this chapter describes the Cold War moment when elite lawyers, like the New York lawyer Harrison Tweed, celebrated the public defender as central to the “American way of life.” By the 1950s, lawyers and political leaders touted the rights that U.S. Constitution afforded to criminal defendants as hallmarks of democracy. These rights were thought to exemplify democratic regard for the individual, in contrast to the state-dominated show trials that symbolized totalitarianism. Within this context, criminal defense attorneys were rhetorically celebrated and the public defender was reframed from a harbinger of socialism into an anticommunist figure. In 1963, the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, further enshrining the constitutional right to counsel. Gideon held that the Sixth Amendment requires states to provide counsel to indigent defendants in all serious felony trials. The decision was celebrated and chronicled in the widely read book by journalist Anthony Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet, and the Ford Foundation announced ambitious plans for a nationwide initiative to expand public defender offices.
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