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Half a generation ago the Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright found the Sixth Amendment right to counsel "fundamental and essential to a fair trial." Mr. Justice Black, speaking for an unanimous Court, referred to lawyers as "necessities, not luxuries." He said the "noble ideal" of fair trials "cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him," and declared that "any person hauled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him." One might therefore have expected per curiam reversals, following Gideon, of criminal convictions where assistance of counsel was denied. Instead, several courts upheld such convictions for'misdemeanors, and the Court repeatedly denied certiorari.
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