Shaking the Foundations 2023
Beyond Gideon’s Promise
Shaking the Foundations is an annual public interest law conference that brings together law students, practitioners, and academics who share a commitment to using the law for positive, progressive social change. Through panels and a keynote speech, the conference is designed to provide a forum for advocates and law students to discuss innovative strategies and solutions to the world’s most pressing social justice issues.
The conference theme this year is Beyond Gideon’s Promise. It has been sixty years since the Supreme Court issued its decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335, 344 (1963), recognizing that “in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.” The Court asserted that this premise was “an obvious truth.” Id. Yet more than half a century later, this commonsense notion of right to court-appointed counsel is not recognized in housing court, immigration court, family court, and many other places where the foundations of people’s lives are demolished by our justice system. Even in the criminal legal system, heavy attorney caseloads, coercive sentencing structures, and incentives to plea bargain undermine Gideon’s promise of a fair trial for those who need it most. The panels will explore how lawyers and directly impacted communities navigate the intersections between the criminal legal system and other judicial regimes and work in alliance to transform these systems from within and without.
Dr. Clarence B. Jones, speechwriter and personal attorney for Martin Luther King, Jr., will give the keynote.