Gideon’s Army


Fifty years ago, a landmark Supreme Court case, Gideon v. Wainwright, found that every defendant facing imprisonment has the right to a lawyer. Lawyers who serve as public defenders, providing free legal defense to those who cannot afford it, struggle with enormous case loads, low pay and a criminal justice system whose fairness and competency are often in question. We follow young lawyers, struggling to live up to their ideals of what criminal defense should be. Some succeed, some fail, but in watching their struggles we come away with a clearer understanding of what the criminal justice system truly looks like for those without money, power or fame. This film by lawyer and first-time filmmaker Dawn Porter skillfully shows the unevenness of the justice system for those at the bottom end of the economic ladder and the defenders who attempt to provide high-quality representation despite overwhelming caseloads. You’ll be touched by how they persist when others give up.


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