Julian wears a suit and smiles into the camera. To his left are orange and white message icons with this text (taken from Teen Vogue article): Gideon v. Wainwright Was a Landmark Decision, But Women Invented the Idea of the Public Defender

Julian with the Reframe and appreciation this Womens History Month

This Women’s History Month, and on the 60th anniversary of the legal decision Gideon v. Wainwright, TeamChild Policy Coordinator Julian Cooper references the Teen Vogue article by Emily Galvin Almanza in a letter of appreciation to, and an ask for continued accountability from, our staff.


Dear TeamChild staff,

March 18, 2023 marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark decision Gideon v. Wainwright. On that day in 1963, SCOTUS ruled that the right to counsel is fundamental to a fair trial and must be provided to criminal defendants who are unable to afford an attorney. The principle of providing access to justice for all, regardless of ability to pay, is fundamental to TeamChild’s mission.

The promise of Gideon has been endangered since the opinion.  The opinion linked the right to counsel to defendants facing criminal charges, but failed to include how inextricably linked civil legal rights are to the ability to remain free of criminal prosecution. Limited funding and resources and a restricted scope of the right to counsel have made adequate representation for young people difficult in the civil context, where basic rights like housing, education, and health care are at stake. We know that there is often significant overlap between criminal and civil legal issues for youth, and adequate representation can mean a dramatic difference in securing opportunities for a young person’s future.

As we commemorate this important anniversary, let us recommit ourselves to fighting for a more equitable legal system. We will steadfastly advocate for increased funding, expanded access to legal services, and broader cultural support for legal aid. We continue to bridge the gap between Gideon’s promise and the experiences of our client community in navigating the child welfare, education, and legal systems.

I want to thank all legal and program staff alike for your tireless effort and dedication to ensuring that young people in Washington state have a fair shot at justice and in life. May we continue to recognize the importance of our work in securing the rights and advocating for the interests of our clients.

I also want to take a moment to share something I just learned (see Teen Vogue article by Emily Galvin Almanza). Seventy years before Gideon, a woman by the name of Clara Shortridge Foltz recognized the power of police and prosecutors to simply criminalize poverty. Inspired to change this reality, but unable to represent clients herself because of the exclusion of women in civic and professional life, Foltz drafted a bill amending the California state code to permit women to practice law. The bill eventually passed and Foltz had an illustrious career in advocacy – she drafted and passed another bill in 1911 establishing the Office of the Public Defender in California.

I share this story because I want to recognize the work of public defense and legal aid being disproportionately carried by women attorneys and legal staff, especially women of color. The commitment to equal justice and dedication to serving the most vulnerable members of our communities is deserving of our highest regard.


We invite you to join us in the commitment to equal justice and stay connected with this work!

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