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Gideon's Trumpet

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,865 Ratings  ·  159 Reviews
A history of the landmark case of James Earl Gideon's fight for the right to legal counsel. Notes, table of cases, index. The classic backlist bestseller. More than 800,000 sold since its first pub date of 1964.
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 23rd 1989 by Vintage (first published 1964)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
A lot of different things helped push me down the road to law school. There's that scene in The Verdict when Paul Newman tells Charlotte Rampling about justice("See, the jury believes. The jury wants to believe...All of them...say, 'It's a sham, it's rigged, you can't fight city hall.' But when they step into that jury just barely see it in their eyes..."). There's also the (as yet unrealized) promise of financial security. Maybe the most noble motivator I had was Anthony Lewis's Gideo ...more
Kressel Housman
Dec 16, 2013 Kressel Housman rated it really liked it
For those who don't know, Gideon v. Wainwright was the landmark Supreme Court case that established the federal requirement for criminal courts to provide defense attorneys for the indigent. In other words, it's the reason we have public defenders today.

The case began when Clarence Gideon, a poor white man sitting in a Florida prison for petty larceny, wrote to the Supreme Court that his 14th Amendment right to due process of law had been violated because the court that convicted him didn't prov
Nov 29, 2007 Russell rated it it was ok
I read this book before I went to law school. It was supposed to be the inspiring story of how we all came to have the right to an attorney.

I thought it was dull and was actually the story of how a florida redneck who was arrested for burglary got in touch with a bunch of high powered attorneys with an agenda.

Appellate law is not interesting even when it is novelized.
Dec 22, 2009 Tom rated it really liked it
A very good read. Definitely gets one all rah-rah democracy and rah-rah constitution yet with nuance and thoughtfulness. Also, not one-sided as Lewis does a good job of showing Ass’t Attorney General Jacob as a sympathetic guy who really did believe that everyone has a right to counsel but ultimately believed more in states’ rights. I felt bad for the guy sending out a letter to all 50 states asking for an Amicus Brief to support Betts v. Brady but ending up getting Amicus Briefs from many of th ...more
Frank Stein
Sep 07, 2014 Frank Stein rated it it was amazing

After reading this book, I understand why it has become a law-school staple for generations. First, and importantly, it's short, always necessary in book assignments. Second, it provides a concise and solid overview of how the Supreme Court "did its own work" in Brandeis's phrase (down to some now antiquated details, such as the dumbwaiter that carried briefs up and down in the head Clerk's office).

Third, and more importantly, the book puts real human stories at it's center. There is Clarence E
May 27, 2010 Roger rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law
"...Gideon is something of a 'nut,' [and:] his maniacal distrust and suspicion lead him to the very borders of insanity. Upon the shoulders of such persons are our great rights carried."

I'm a public defender for prison inmates. When I read the statement above in the epilogue, I was amused and relieved to learn that Gideon was a lot like many of my own clients.

Apr 02, 2016 Stephen rated it it was ok
I am going through bookshelves, clearing out for summer book sales at the two public libraries that I support. This may go into that bag! I read this the second semester of my first year in graduate school - at the start of a class in planning law - boring! That is all I remember, but I guess now that the SCOTUS is so much in the news, it is important to realize that this decision, Gideon v. Wainwright did more to change constitutional law than probably any other case. Something that certainly i ...more
Feb 17, 2013 zltg rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, law
There is no illusion at all that Gideon is a hero or he did not owe his victory entirely to the legal and social momentum, which were outside of his control and already pointing to overturn Betts. But it is also worthwhile to remember the facts here, that man like him, an outcast at the very bottom of the society, had the tenacity and courage to pursue what he deemed just and not gave up hope. My eyes got wet when first looked at Gideon's pencil-written petition for cert on prison mail paper. Th ...more
Catherine Woodman
Mar 21, 2013 Catherine Woodman rated it really liked it

I have always been a reader, and whenever possible, I have tried to read what my children are reading. It started out with 'The Hungry Caterpillar', progressed to the Harry Potter series and now I am immersed in British Victorian novels and socio-political classics (which it turns out that I am no better at deciphering in my 50's than I was in my 20's) . So when my eldest son decided to go to law school, my husband and I encouraged him to read some of the recommended classics in the history of l
Mar 27, 2013 Judy rated it it was amazing
The news this week of the death of Anthony Lewis at age 85 was enough to send me scurrying to the bookcase to dig out my copy of Gideon's Trumpet and reread it. Clarence Earl Gideon was arrested in Florida on a charge of breaking and entering and he was forced to represent himself at his trial because he couldn't afford an attorney. Gideon felt that this was a violation of his constitutional right to be represented by counsel and while he was in a Florida prison he sat down and wrote a petition ...more
Nov 30, 2007 kimberly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lawyers, those fascinated by justice and the mysterious supreme court
Shelves: law-books
Often, I am discouraged with my profession. The slow-moving machinary of the judiciary is not perfect, but both Gideon and To Kill a Mockingbird remind me why I'm a lawyer. I wish I had read Gideon before starting my clerkship. For one reason, we had an entire right to counsel issue that I would have understood better after this book. Additionally, it discusses the role of a law clerk and how the judicial system works. Dude, this is more helpful than my staff attorney manual!
But most of all, I
Jul 25, 2007 Jocelyn rated it liked it
No one today would argue against the fact that Gideon v. Wainwright had a positive impact on the legal system. People should have the right to an attorney and this book explains not only why, but also celebrates the fact that a poor prisoner could affect our law. In fact, "How one man, a poor prisoner, took his case to the Supreme Court-- and changed the law of the United States" sits over the title on the wonderfully designed cover of my edition of the book.

However, I got a strange feeling whil
Nov 13, 2015 Marilee rated it it was amazing
This is on my son's AP Gov reading list. I got about halfway through it when my son commandeered it and inhaled it in two days. I finally snagged it back and finished it. It tells the fascinating story of a man in jail in the early sixties who had been denied representation in his original court case. He eventually worked his way to the Supreme Court and fought for man's right to counsel. It's a little dry at the beginning as it lays the foundation of the case and describes the members of the Su ...more
Dec 02, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, law
I didn't realize that this book was written back in the day until the author started talking about how SCOTUS is a bunch of old white guys. Anyway, I enjoyed the read overall and the occasional old-timey aside.

Public defenders in particular will appreciate the coda on Gideon's second trial, where he chose to go pro se on some pretrial motions:
- asserted that double jeopardy prohibited a new trial (it didn't)
- argued that the statute of limitations had run and second trial was unlawful (it wasn't
Feb 08, 2010 Ted rated it really liked it
Terrific book. I had never read anything about our Supreme Court and this turned out to be a great start. This is a pretty incredible story about one man who, without the help of a lawyer, appealed his case to the highest court in the land and eventually won. The accused's right to a lawyer, and thus due process, would be considered as fundamental as any other. However, up until this case, states had a free hand to decide when an indigent defendant would be afforded one by the state. The author ...more
Jun 20, 2008 Denise rated it really liked it
I read this because I'm trying to keep my post-law-school, pre-bar-exam brain from turning into gorgeous, laid back mush. It was great. It's very, very readable, with lots of relatively interesting descriptions of the facts leading up to the Gideon v. Wainwright case, and it includes lots of great information about how the inner gears of the Supreme Court turn. Some parts get a little turgid, but it's a book about a legal decision; what do you expect? I kind of wish they'd done a second edition ...more
Jun 16, 2009 Diane rated it really liked it
Shelves: legal
I read this in preparation for a continuing legal education class which will involve discussion of the book. I was not looking forward to reading it as I suspected it would be very dry and difficult to plough through. It was actually a very easy read. The author wrote in a manner which would allow a lay person to understand the Supreme Court appellate process, and effectively personalized the Gideon v. Wainwright decision. I think this would be a great book for law students to read, and is also ...more
Alex Lee
Mar 10, 2016 Alex Lee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, 2016, law
I tried to read this about 10 years ago and it put me to sleep far too often. Now I read it and it's a page turner.

There is an implicit reason for the way in which law works. At the heart of it, law isn't simply to promote social order. In order to justify itself law must present its organization as being consistent. The procedures and policies inherent within the legal system are there to present the consistency of the process by which law is applied and justice is determined.

However, with the
Mar 07, 2016 Piker7977 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, history
In basic terms, Anthony Lewis’s Gideon’s Trumpet is a narrative about one case and how it changed views on right to counsel for the whole nation. In another way, Lewis’s work is a fantastic piece of journalism that transcends basic reporting by taking on many different subjects involved in America’s legal system. The reader gains a perspective as to how America’s legal system functions and what criteria a case needs in order to reach the highest court of the land. The pretentions and mysteries s ...more
This was a book written in the 60's about the case of a man who was denied indigent counsel for a misdemeanor and appealed to the Supreme Court. I believe the book was written by a journalist. It is well written and appears to have been carefully researched.

One interesting thing about the book is to read it many years after it was written, about 1964, and think about what has happened between then and now. The attorney handling Gideon's case was Abe Fortas, before he became a Supreme Court Justi
Morgan Brooks
Mar 09, 2015 Morgan Brooks rated it really liked it
Not just in echo:
In the 1960’s, a man named Clarence Earl Gideon was charged with breaking and entering to commit a misdemeanor. He requested the aid of counsel, which was denied by the presiding Judge. Gideon claimed that according to the 14th amendment of the US Constitution, he was entitled to be represented by counsel. However, due to Betts v. Brady, Gideon had to show that he was a “victim of… special circumstances” in order to be entitled to a lawyer. His argument was that he was denied d
Josh Davis
Dec 03, 2014 Josh Davis rated it it was amazing
An amazing account of the different that one man can make.
David Eppenstein
Okay, I'm a retired public defender and Gideon is the patron saint of our profession so I can be accused of some bias in reviewing this book. Nevertheless, I have to admit that the average reader would probably find this book about as interesting as watching paint dry. Earlier this year I read a book about the Scottsboro Boys, another event that ended up going to the Supreme Court just like Gideon's did. Unfortunately, this book had none of the drama or suspense that Scottsboro did. The Scottsbo ...more
Aug 06, 2016 Elizabeth rated it liked it
It felt like too much information was trying to be squeezed into the book. There were many historical explanations and tangents, which were important, but overall I just wasn't intrigued. If this topic was something I was really interested in, I probably would have liked it more.

On the bright side, I have officially decided that I will never pursue any career related to the government. As an added bonus, I will probably fail AP Gov, so this is good.
Jan 19, 2009 Stefani rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The first book I have read for law school since A Civil Action in 1L that wasn't a case book or supplement.

Whew. Law school should require more books like this. It is the story of how the right to representation for the indigent in all criminal cases was codified by the Supreme Court.

Somewhat uplifting, somewhat depressing.
Brennan Lowe
Aug 08, 2015 Brennan Lowe rated it really liked it
Shelves: law-stuff
Seems ridiculous that the right to counsel in state criminal trials was NOT a guaranteed one just 50-odd years ago, right? It's been hard for me to put into perspective just how recently and quickly a whole bunch of rights and protections we now take for granted came about in the 20th century, but I feel Gideon's Trumpet does a good job of not only walking readers through Gideon v. Wainwright, but of capturing the visible gap in the legal world's mind in the direct aftermath of Betts v. Brady to ...more
Mar 20, 2010 Amanda rated it liked it
Had to read as research for a loved one who's considering law. Recommended to me by a lawyer I respect. A great read for anyone considering law. Terrific story. If the reader is not a lawyer, it gets dry in the middle, but definitely plow through to the ending of the tale. All true. All heartening.
Muneel Zaidi
May 08, 2016 Muneel Zaidi rated it really liked it
The story of how Gideon's handwritten pleas for help from inside a prison make it to the Supreme Court is interesting. The story of how The Court took his rudimentary legal requests and overturned decades' worth of precedence is amazing.

I've wrongly assumed the right to a lawyer was always afforded under the Constitution, but that's not the case. This book chronicles the case of Gideon vs. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), where a poor man sent to jail (after losing a trial in which he was force
Text Addict
Oct 13, 2014 Text Addict rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Still as relevant - alarmingly so, in fact - as when it was published fifty years ago. The last thirty-odd years have shown that even the right to counsel is not sufficient to guard against injustice, but I think I see the times a-chagin' once more, just as they were in the early 1960s.

Clearly and accessibly written, the book certainly presses the idea that "due process" and "equal protection of the laws" are principles worth defending on all fronts - even if the people so defended are not alway
Joe Rodeck
Feb 09, 2014 Joe Rodeck rated it liked it
The Supreme Court and its place in our government is solidly taught. Interesting discussion of its place in the system; ex, why should nine ex-lawyers have such incredible power?

I found myself searching for spirituality, humor, passion, or something. This book could have been written by Sgt Joe Friday.

Recommend for future lawyers or SS teachers only. He tosses around Supreme Court case titles like "Powell vs Alabama" like they're common knowledge. As a non-lawyer, I don't know what "amicus cu
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Anthony Lewis was an American intellectual and columnist for the New York Times.
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