Washington Governor Declares March 18, 2017 Public Defense Day
This statement was released on March 9, 2017.
WHEREAS, Washington State values every one of its inhabitants – rich and poor – and many individuals cannot afford to hire a lawyer; and
WHEREAS, this problem was addressed 54 years ago in the case of Clarence Earl Gideon who was charged with a crime but could not afford a lawyer and was sentenced to five years in prison; and
WHEREAS, Gideon submitted a petition to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that the United States Constitution bars the states from sending poor people to prison without legal representation; and
WHEREAS, on March 18, 1963, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Gideon’s conviction and five-year prison sentence violated the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution because he was not provided a lawyer; and
WHEREAS, as a result of the Gideon decision, all states now provide court-appointed counsel to people facing criminal convictions and imprisonment who cannot afford a lawyer; and
WHEREAS, on May 15, 1967, the Supreme Court established the constitutional right to counsel for juveniles accused of crimes facing delinquency proceedings (In re Gault); and
WHEREAS, since 1854, more than a century before the Gideon decision, Washington recognized that indigent criminal defendants are entitled to a lawyer at public expense; and
WHEREAS, hundreds of public defense attorneys, staff, and assigned counsel in Washington struggle to meet the needs of clients facing loss of liberty, and they are a critical part of maintaining a fair justice system; and
WHEREAS, the 54th anniversary of the Supreme Court Gideon decision and 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court Gault decisions represent an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the value of equal justice under the laws;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Jay Inslee, Governor of the state of Washington, do hereby declare March 18, 2017 as
in Washington, and I encourage all people in our state to join me in this special observance.
Governor Jay Inslee