The Legal Aid Society Marks The 50th Anniversary Of Gideon With A Series of Events - Updated

The Legal Aid Society and The Association of Legal Aid Attorneys have planned a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's landmark Gideon vs. Wainwright decision which established a federal constitutional right to counsel for adults accused of crimes in the United States.

As the oldest and largest legal services provider in the United States, The Legal Aid Society plans to mark the anniversary with a series of events, including: a March 19th showing of the award-winning documentary Scenes of a Crime; a special program on the implementation of criminal defense caseload limitations to enable The Legal Aid Society's Criminal Practice to help New Yorkers accused of crimes, often wrongfully, secure the promise of Gideon; and a 50th anniversary celebration of The Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Practice which represented children in Family Court even before such representation was legally mandated. As part of the Gideon anniversary events, ALAA is also conducting "know your rights" programs on March 18, the actual anniversary of the decision, on Riker's Island and in other New York City Department of Corrections facilities. (An earlier communication had listed the date incorrectly as March 19.)

On March 18, approximately 30 ALAA volunteers will be presenting "know your rights" information on the Department of Corrections Barge in the Bronx, at several Department of Corrections facilities on Riker's Island, and in the Department's Manhattan House of Detention and Brooklyn House of Detention. The presentations will cover the history of the Gideon case law which resulted in the right to counsel, a brief overview of that right and how best to utilize it, and a discussion of "know your rights" materials, including information on in-custody disciplinary hearings, for parolees facing possible revocation, and about police encounters and new arrest scenarios. Additionally, the Corrections Commissioner has approved a brief Q and A at the end of the presentations, which will afford inmates a unique opportunity to interact directly with the Legal Aid attorney presenters about the right to counsel, police interrogations and written/oral statements as well as any other questions they may have related to the presentations. On Tuesday, March 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at The Legal Aid Society's Brooklyn Criminal Defense office, ALAA volunteers are conducting a training to familiarize volunteers with the presentation materials and to enable volunteers to meet their colleagues who will be participating in the "know your rights" program.

On March 19, The Legal Aid Society and the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys are sponsoring a showing of the award-winning documentary "Scenes of a Crime," a 90-minute film which presents a riveting insight into a fully recorded police interrogation and its consequences, seen through the eyes of the detectives, witnesses, the defense and prosecution teams, jurors, and the defendant himself. The documentary presents the case of People v. Adrian Thomas, which will be heard by the New York Court of Appeals later this year. The screening is on Tuesday, March 19, at 6 p.m. at the Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue (at the corner of 2nd Street). The screening will be followed by a presentation and Q & A with Dr. Richard Ofshe, a leading expert on false confessions.

Information on the other Gideon anniversary events will be provided over the course of the next few weeks. For further information, please contact Pat Bath, The Legal Aid Society's Director of Communications, at