Abstract

The United States Constitution makes provision for criminal defendants to be represented by counsel. In the federal jurisdiction this principle was vigorously applied, even to indigent persons, very early in the Twentieth Century. The United States Supreme Court, however, was reluctant to impose this requirement on the states except in cases of unusual circumstances where the absence of counsel would have affected the basic fairness of the trial. Finally, in a landmark decision by the Supreme Court, it was held that the right to counsel applies in both federal and state cases. For the past twenty years, federal and state judges have been concerned with the application of this right to counsel: the kinds of persons who are to benefit from it, the types of cases in which counsel is required, and the nature of proceedings other than trial to which the right applies. In recent years, however, an emerging right has developed, the right of the defendant to represent himself at trial. This right was mandated by the Supreme Court in 1975 and has led to considerable confusion in both the state and federal courts. The relationship between this right and the right to counsel has posed a dilemma for judges and has created practical difficulties at trial. In this article the basic right to counsel will be explored leading to a discussion of the right of self-representation. Ultimately, the tension between these two rights will be evaluated.

Document Type

Article

Publication Information

30 American Journal of Comparative Law 551-573 (1981)

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