Clarence Earl Gideon was the criminal defendant in the famous case Gideon v. Wain-wright (1963). Gideon allegedly broke into a Florida pool hall to steal money. This criminal act earned him felony charges and later a conviction in Florida state court. In the beginning of the case, Gideon asked the court for a lawyer. The trial judge responded that under Florida law the only criminal defendants entitled to a court-appointed lawyer were those defendants facing capital (death penalty) charges. Gideon insisted that the United States Supreme Court says I am entitled to be represented by Counsel.
Gideon appealed his case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Court accepted his case for review and appointed him a Washington, D.C.-based attorney named Abe Fortas to represent Gideon before the Court. Ironically, Fortas later became a United States Supreme Court Justice.
As alluded to earlier, Gideon’s case spurred action by the U.S. Congress which required in every federal judicial district a system to create proper legal representation for criminal defendants.