Stetson’s law school hosted panel, film “Defending Gideon”

Members of the public were invited to a panel discussion and showing of the film, “Defending Gideon,” on Feb. 11 at Stetson University College of Law’s Gulfport campus. Approximately 70 people attended the showing of the 30-minute documentary and Q&A discussion about the history and future of public defender work and criminal justice in the U.S.

(L-R): Christopher Durocher, Professor Ellen Podgor, Bob Dillinger and Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law Bruce Jacob.

(L-R): Christopher Durocher, Professor of Law Ellen Podgor, Bob Dillinger ’76 and Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law Bruce Jacob ’59.

Christopher Durocher of the Constitution Project moderated the panel discussion.

“Getting young lawyers to care about these issues is the number one way to see change,” Durocher told the audience of law students, professors and members of the public.

Stetson Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law Bruce Jacob, who presented the historic Gideon case in 1963 before the high court, presented on the panel with Public Defender Bob Dillinger and Professor of Law Ellen Podgor.

The Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright ruled that states are required to provide counsel to defendants who cannot afford representation in criminal cases. The panelists discussed the state of the justice system more than 50 years after Gideon, and described a prison system overcrowded with nonviolent offenders and homeless people.

“We’re the top jailer in the world,” Jacob said. “Defendants are herded through the system–it is assembly line justice.”

Professor Podgor explained that overcriminalization results in the processing of people.”There are more than 4500 criminal statutes,” Professor Podgor said.

“People facing criminal charges can’t take the risk of going to trial,” said Podgor. “It is less time served to plea than to go to trial. These people are being betrayed by the system designed to protect them.”

“The system could be a lot better if we train our young lawyers,” Dillinger told the audience.