Douglas v. California 372 U.S. 353, 83 S. Ct. 814, 9 L. Ed.2d 811 (1963)
Douglas et. al. were convicted
of 13 felonies related to a robbery, and sentenced to prison. They
At Trial, they were
appointed legal counsel because they were too poor to afford to pay for
On appeal, Douglas requested
that legal counsel be appointed again. The Court refused the request.
California's Rules of
Criminal Procedure did not require the State to appoint legal counsel on
appeal. It was to be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Amendment only requires a lawyer
during the trial phase. It says nothing about appeals.
The Appellate Court upheld the
conviction. Douglas appealed.
The California Supreme Court
upheld the conviction. Douglas appealed.
The US Supreme Court
overturned the conviction.
The US Supreme Court found
that, "where the merits of the one and only appeal an indigent has
as of right were decided without benefit of counsel in a state criminal
case, there has been a discrimination between the rich and the poor which
violates the 14th Amendment."
That's a question of equal
protection, because it put the poor
at a disadvantage in receiving justice, and having counsel is a gateway
to asserting all your other rights.
The Court found that appeals
are part of the judicial process. Therefore the requirement for counsel
is a due process issue.
there is no constitutional requirement that States allow appeals at all,
the 6th Amendment
only requires counsel be provided for a trial.
In a dissent it was argued
that the rich will always be able to afford more than the poor, so it
wasn't the State's responsibility to change that.
Protection Clause does not impose on
the States an affirmative duty to relieve handicaps flowing from
differences in economic circumstances...The State may have a moral
obligation to eliminate the evils of poverty, but it is not required to
give to some whatever others can afford."
That sounds a lot like communism...!
In combination with Griffin
v. Illinois (351 U.S. 12 (1956)), the
US Supreme Court established the Griffin-Douglas Doctrine,
which basically says that whenever an indigent defendant has the right to
appointed counsel, the State must furnish them with any and every legal
service that a wealthy defendant is able to purchase.
In Griffin, the defendant needed transcripts of the
Trial Court transcripts in order to mount an appeal, and the US Supreme
Court found that they must be provided to him at no expense.
But, not having a
transcript is an absolute bar to filing an appeal, while not having a
lawyer just makes your appeal harder to win.
This decision was a strange
combination of the requirement for due process and the requirement for equal protection. Neither requirement would have been
convincing by itself, but together they make for a convincing argument.