On March 18, 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright
held that the Constitution requires states to provide counsel for indigent criminal defendants. For a unanimous Court, Justice Hugo Black wrote, "any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him." Counsel had been required for indigent federal defendants since 1938.
Read a history of the Right to Counsel
from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.