The Supreme Court and the Poor

Published date01 April 1965
Date01 April 1965
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/003288556504500102
Subject MatterArticles
7
THE
SUPREME
COURT
AND
THE
POOR
ROBERT
HADL *
1
351
U. S.
12.
2 351
U.
S.
at
13.
3
351 U. S. at 17.
T HE
PRINCIPLE
of
Equal
Justice
Under
Law
inscribed
on
the
Supreme
Court
building
in
Washington
can
be
traced
to
the
Bible
and
Magna
Charta.
&dquo;Ye
shall
do
no
unrighteousness
in
judgment:
thou
shalt
not
respect
the
person
of
the
poor,
nor
honour
the
person
of
the
mighty:
but
in
righteousness
shalt
thou
judge
thy
neighbor.&dquo;
Leviticus,
c.
19,
v.
15.
&dquo;To
no
one
will
we
sell,
to
no
one
will
we
refuse,
or
delay,
right
or
justice.&dquo;
Magna
Charta
( 1215 ) .
Not
until
1957,
however,
did
the
Supreme
Court
apply
the
principle
of
equal
justice
to
curtail
discrimina-
tion
based
on
poverty
in
the
area
of
criminal
appeals.
Griffin
v.
Illinois,’
decided
that
year,
has
become
the
landmark
case
in
the
field.
By
relying
on
both
the
Due
Process
and
Equal
Protection
Clauses
of
the
Four-
teenth
Amendment,
the
Supreme
Court
was
able
to
fashion
standards
which
it
has
subsequently
applied
to
various
aspects
of
the
criminal
Process
including
trial
transcripts,
finding
fees,
post
conviction
remedies,
and
the
right
to
counsel.
In
view
of
the
relative
newness
of
these
deci-
sions,
a
discussion
of
their
scope
and
future
applicability
is
warranted.
The
Transcript
Cases
.
’ .° .
,-’..
~
The
target
of
the
Supreme
Court’s
attack
in
Griffin
was
the
Illinois
system
of
providing
transcripts
to
indigent
criminal
defendants.
Under
Illinois
law &dquo;
’writs
of
error
in
all
criminal
cases
are
writs of
right
and
shall
be
issued
of
course.’ 11
A
defendant,
however,
could
not
obtain
full
appellate
review
of
alleged
trial
errors
unless
he
furnished
the
appellate
court
with
a
bill
of
exceptions
or
report
of
proceedings
at
the
trial
certified
by
the
trial
judge.
Griffin,
alleging
his
inability
to
pay,
asked
the
trial
court
for
a
free
transcript.
When
his
request
was
denied,
his
right
to
appeal
was
thereby
precluded.
The
case
was
eventually
brought
to
the
Supreme
Court
which
stated:
: -
°
’ ,’
__
...’
>-
&dquo;*
*
*
our
own
constitutional
guaranties
of
due
process
.
and
equal
protection
both
call
for
procedures
in
criminal
trials
which
allow
no
invidious
discriminations
between
per-
.
sons
and
different
groups
of
persons.
Both
equal
protection
.
and
due
process
emphasize
the
central
aim
of
our
entire
judi-
cial
system-all
people
charged
with
crime
must,
so
far
as
the
law
is
concerned,
’stand
on
an
equality
before
the
bar
of
justice
in
every
American
court.’ &dquo;
(Citations
omitted.)
3
* Attorney,
Federal
Communication
Commission.

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