Skip to Main Content

Gideon v. Wainwright Viewing Guide

Access our Homework Help video on the Gideon v. Wainwright Supreme Court case and use the following lesson to help your students understand the material!


Does an individual have a right to a lawyer, regardless of the crime he or she is charged with? In 1961, Clarence Gideon was arrested and charged with breaking and entering and petty larceny in Panama City, Florida. His request for a state-provided defense attorney was denied since Florida law only required doing so for capital offense cases. After Gideon was sentenced to 5 years in prison, he argued that Florida violated the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of the right to counsel. The Supreme Court heard Gideon’s case and ruled in a 7-0 decision that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of an attorney applies to states through the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Viewing Guide:

  1. Why did Gideon request an attorney from the state?
  2. What rights did Abe Fortas (Gideon’s attorney) argue were being violated?
  3. What did Bruce Jacob (Florida’s attorney) argue in this case?
  4. What did the Supreme Court rule?
  5. What previous ruling did this overturn?
  6. Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling? Why?
  7. Do you think the Court settled the issue of whether defendants have the right to be provided an attorney?

Access the answer key here

Related Content