The Public Defender System -
A Connecticut First
In the 1963
case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the United States Supreme Court
held that an indigent defendant in a state felony trial has a
constitutional right to state-appointed counsel. In reaching this
decision, the Gideon Court wrote:
The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be
deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some
countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state
and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on
procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair
trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant
stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized
if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers
without a lawyer to assist him.
Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 344 (1963)
earlier, Connecticut had recognized the critical role of counsel in
a fair trial. In 1917, Connecticut became the first state in the
Union to adopt the public defender system on a statewide basis.
Chapter 225 of the 1917 Connecticut Public Acts.
interesting discussions of Connecticut’s public defender system and
its history can be found in the Connecticut Bar Journal.
See 1 Conn. B.
J. 330 (1927); 9 Conn. B. J. 307 (1935); 33 Conn. B. J. 297
(1959); 39 Conn. B. J. 221 (1965).
of Connecticut Legal History