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Gideon v. Wainwright

This Sixth Amendment activity is based on the landmark Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright dealing with the right to an attorney and In re Gault dealing with the right of juveniles to have an attorney. Using this readers theater script, re-enact what happened to Clarence Earl Gideon. Apply the precedent in In re Gault to this updated, relatable scenario about teens using fireworks that start a forest fire.

About these Resources

The resources for a courthouse event or a classroom activity include:

  • Facts and case summary for Gideon v. Wainwright and In re Gault.
  • A scripted re-enactment of the stories of Clarence Gideon (Gideon v. Wainwright) and juvenile Jerry Gault (In re Gault).
  • A discussion with federal public defenders about the right to counsel and the role of public defenders in fulfilling the promise of the Sixth Amendment.
  • A fictional scenario depicting a real-life situation.
  • An agenda providing a guide to the activity.

How to Use These Resources

The courtroom program designed for 9th-12th grade students or teachers for professional development programs can be 60 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on how much time is allotted for the three components:

In Advance

No preparation for students or teachers is needed. Everything is provided in the courtroom and participants are prepared by the federal public defenders.

In the Classroom or Courtroom

Public defenders facilitate the following activities:

  1. Participants read their scripted parts from Gideon v. Wainwright and In re Gault.
  2. Public defenders summarize Gideon v. Wainwright and In re Gault.
  3. Public defenders engage participants in a discussion about:

    • A day in the life of a defender as it relates to teen issues
    • The role of defenders with their clients; in the courtroom; and protecting the rule of law.
    • How the public defender system has an impact on the program participants and other law-abiding citizens.

Program Times: 50-minute class period; 60-90 minute courtroom program. Timing depends on the length of discussion segments. Each program component can be adjusted to fit the time allotted for the event.

Preparation Times:

  • Public Defenders: Reading prepared materials. (30 min.) No further research or reading necessary.
  • Teachers Students: No preparation.
  • Courthouse Venue: To find the nearest local courthouse, use the court locator.

DISCLAIMER: These resources are created by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for educational purposes only. They may not reflect the current state of the law, and are not intended to provide legal advice, guidance on litigation, or commentary on any pending case or legislation.