The Norman Transcript

Opinion

May 2, 2013

‘Equality for all’ exemplified by attorneys

NORMAN — The concept of “equality for all,” celebrated by Law Day 2013, is exemplified daily by attorneys working with the Norman-based Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.

When judges determine that a citizen accused of a crime and facing loss of liberty cannot afford to hire a lawyer to help them, this state agency provides counsel. Attorneys employed by the system and private attorneys working with the agency strive to ensure equal justice for these accused citizens.

These “equalizers” are often asked to take on unpopular and unenviable cases. In high-profile and ugly crimes, those representing the accused are sometimes portrayed as “necessary evils,” with not much understanding for the “necessary.”

In the heat of anger and fear over a horrific crime, it can be hard to recall the founding principles of due process. It is the defense attorney who steps into the gap and has the duty of “equalizing” the government’s accusation by acting to protect the accused citizen’s rights.

In a case later dramatized in book and movie form as “Gideon’s Trumpet,” the Supreme Court described lawyers in the criminal justice system as “necessities, not luxuries.” This reality was premised on the foundation that just as “lawyers to prosecute are everywhere deemed essential to protect the public’s interest” and that few accused citizens “fail to hire the best lawyers they can get,” those without resources also need the help of lawyers when faced with government accusation.

The Supreme Court’s decision 50 years ago in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright recognized the “great emphasis” our founders placed on safeguards “designed to ensure fair trials before impartial tribunals.” The Supreme Court understood that “(t)his noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with a crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Noting a life well lived

    James Garner never intended to be a movie and television star. He just kind of lucked into it, he would tell those who asked. If you have the itch to act, get a good-paying job and spend your free time at your local community theater, he ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Recount that really matters

    Americans have been hearing a lot about Congressional elections, but there’s another one halfway around the globe that will matter far more....

    July 22, 2014

  • Runoffs get no respect

    The Aug. 26 Republican runoff election for the Cleveland County District 3 commissioner post is one of only 18 races on ballots around the state. Only two races are statewide — the Democrat contests for U.S. Senator nominee and state ...

    July 22, 2014

  • Change some lines

    Editor, The Transcript: Looking at how our elected Republican friends are reacting to the refugee children crossing the border and now being housed in Lawton, I have a suggestion. Let’s edit the Christian Bible in several places to reflect ...

    July 21, 2014

  • New health care system demonized

    To the Editor: In October 2013, soon after we were asked to take over management responsibilities at our family business, we were visited by the company’s health insurance agent. She explained that a decision needed to be made regarding ...

    July 21, 2014

  • Norman Forward builds momentum

    The quiet campaign to build momentum for a citywide public works project is beginning to attract some attention....

    July 20, 2014

  • The longer the wait, the higher the cost

    Editor, The Transcript: Thanks for the great article of July 3 on the Norman chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby group that recently went to D.C. as citizen lobbyists, working to get a revenue-neutral carbon pollution fee, refunded in ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Tax those trees out of here

    I read your editorial “Pesky red cedars” in the Norman Transcript of Tuesday, July 15, 2014. I have attended two meetings where the problem of the eastern red cedar trees was discussed. Because of the drought conditions in Oklahoma, we ...

    July 20, 2014

  • Make gun safety a health issue

    Quick, are you more likely to die by a bullet or in a car crash? Common sense would seem to suggest the latter. Cars are everywhere. We are an auto-obsessed nation. To be American is to drive — everywhere. Teenagers itch to get behind the ...

    July 20, 2014

  • They just want to be free ... maybe

    Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region, rattled many cages this month when he announced in parliament that the KRG would be moving ahead soon on a referendum on independence from Iraq. If Kurdistan goes ahead ...

    July 20, 2014