Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

Lesson Plan

This mini-lesson covers the basics of the Supreme Court’s decision that gave defendants in state criminal courts the right to a lawyer. Students learn about the 6th Amendment right to a lawyer, why the right is important, and how the right led to the existence of public defenders. Students then identify other cases in which the Supreme Court extended important rights of the accused to the state level.


  • Describe the 6th Amendment right to a lawyer
  • Identify the main arguments put forth in the case.
  • Describe the Supreme Court’s decision and analysis.
  • Identify the impact of the Court’s decision.
  • Define “public defenders” and describe their purpose