The American political system is a complex structure involving many different parties/actors, each group with its own unique goal and unique power. In order produce a new policy or law, it is impossible for one party to do it alone; compromises must be made, and coalitions are usually formed. It is a complex and maybe a confusing process, in certain situation some actor may appear powerful, other times very weak. The case of Gideon v. Wainright is an excellent example of how law is made/changed. It illustrates the interactions between many political actors: ordinary citizens, lawyers, Supreme Court, the states and interest groups. Through exploring the story it is possible to understand the different powers each actor posses in the US political system in making laws, and how these powers are gained or lost.
In June 1961, Clarence Earl Gideon, a fifty year old unemployed gambler was arrested in Panama City, Florida.
He was charged for breaking into a poolroom at stealing bear, coke and money from a cigarette machine. During his trial Gideon said he was not ready for trial and asked the Court to appoint counsel to represent him. His request was denied and at the end he was given the maximum five year sentence. Gideon did not give up, while in the state prison Gideon studied law books and appealed to the Florida Supreme Court and later The United States Supreme Court. And this is how the story started.
Gideon, the star of the story, is just an ordinary individual, but this ordinary individual "can take his cause to the highest Court in the land and bring about a fundamental change in the law" (Lewis, 218). This raises two important questions: are individuals really this powerful? And what makes them powerful.
Whether an individual is really...