“Sara Mayeux pulls off an impressive feat in teaching us something important and new about one of the nation’s most iconic Supreme Court cases,” the committee announcing Mayeux’s prize wrote. “This is the kind of history that forces students and researchers to rethink existing frameworks.”
Mayeux’s exploration of Gideon involved both extensive archival research and the development of an original argument. “Many accounts of Gideon’s legacy focus on what it has not accomplished,” Mayeux said. “Criminal legal scholars, advocates and journalists claim that Gideon has failed to guarantee meaningful legal help for poor people charged with crimes. Scholars of constitutional theory say that Gideon did not represent a significant doctrinal shift; it simply imposed a pre-existing national consensus that people charged with crimes should have access to competent legal representation on a few states that didn’t already provide public defenders.”
By reviewing Gideon in the context of the history of public defenders, Mayeux exposes both doctrinal and institutional changes the case has inspired since 1963, when the Supreme Court decided the case.Read on here.
The award is given by the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, with the advice of the American Society for Legal History. The members of this year's ASLH Cromwell Article Prize Advisory Subcommittee were: Mary Ziegler (Florida State University); Erika Pani (Colegio de México); Daniel Sharfstein (Vanderbilt University); and John Witt (Yale University).