When Lauren Sudeall Lucas, associate professor of law and faculty director of the Center for Access to Justice, wrote “Keeping Gideon’s Promise: Using Equal Protection to Address the Denial of Counsel in Misdemeanor Cases,” she wanted to engage practitioners and policy-makers with its ideas and influence their thinking about how to advance indigent defense reform. The article captured the attention of the Getting Scholarship into Court Project advisory board, which added it to its “must read” list, featured in Champion Magazine.
Lucas, who co-wrote the article with Brandon Buskey, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project in New York, was excited to hear the board selected the article.
“I always aim for my scholarship to have real-world impact and being highlighted in this forum means that thousands of practicing criminal defense attorneys will be exposed to the ideas and arguments in the piece,” Lucas said.
The Getting Scholarship into Court Project, sponsored by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), identifies scholarship for its “must read” list that will be useful to courts and practitioners. NACDL posts these lists in monthly columns in Champion Magazine, which reaches NACDL membership and the broader academic and legal community of lawyers, judges and scholars.
Lucas’s article was published in Fordham Law Review last year. It focuses on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, which applies to all felony defendants, even those unable to afford a lawyer. However, defendants facing misdemeanor charges are only entitled to counsel if their conviction results in incarceration. Lucas and Buskey argue that although some indigent misdemeanor defendants denied counsel may not suffer from a Sixth Amendment violation, they are unconstitutionally deprived of meaningful access to the courts on the basis of wealth.
“In many misdemeanor prosecutions, criminal defendants are not entitled to counsel under the Sixth Amendment, yet they can face a number of collateral consequences that have a significant effect on their lives,” Lucas said. “While one way to address that deprivation would be to expand the appointment of counsel to most or all misdemeanor defendants, we suggest that another solution would be to decriminalize some low-level crimes, eliminating the need for counsel in such cases.”
Buskey contacted Lucas after reading one of her earlier articles that explored the possibility of using equal protection in the indigent defense context. He was curious whether she had seen those arguments being used in practice because he was considering doing so in some of his litigation – soon after they decided to write the Keeping Gideon’s Promise article.
“I like writing with practitioners who are engaged in related litigation because it allows me to ensure that the writing is timely, relevant and exposes readers to what is happening on the ground,” Lucas said. “This article definitely falls into this category, and I think it is a great example of pairing someone who is litigating cutting-edge cases across the country with someone who has explored these ideas from a more academic perspective.”