Short Takes: "Gideon's Army"

| Tue Jul. 9, 2013 2:38 PM EDT

Gideon's Army

HBO DOCUMENTARY FILMS

Dawn Porter practiced law for 15-plus years, mostly for TV studios—before our justice system's iniquities inspired her to get behind the camera. Gideon's Army follows public defenders as they struggle with absurd caseloads and fret over clients' fates. One resorts to pocket change to buy gas. "This is all the money I have in the world right now," she explains. The occasion for the film is the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Gideon v. Wainwright ruling, which compels states to provide an attorney to criminal defendants who can't afford one. And that's something. But as Porter sums up today's situation, "You have the right to a lawyer. You don't necessarily have the right to a good one."

This review originally appeared in our July/August issue of Mother Jones. 

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