LegalReader.com  ·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

News & Politics

“Deborah’s Trumpet”


— October 22, 2003

In 1963, the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright established that criminal defendants who are in jeopardy of incarceration are entitled to state-provided defense counsel if they can’t afford a lawyer. The case was immortalized first by Anthony Lewis’ book Gideon’s Trumpet (which you should read if you haven’t already) and then by Henry Fonda’s performance in the film adaptation of it.

Now the child custody fight of mother Deborah Frase may prod Maryland’s highest court to adopt a similar rule in civil cases:

Struggling to retain custody of her 3-year-old son, Michael, Deborah Frase became her own lawyer in January 2002.

With the formidable energy of a desperate mother, she held onto her son — for the moment. The court imposed conditions that seem inappropriately intrusive and worse. She might still lose custody of the child if the conditions are violated. Circumstances that might have produced a more favorable outcome were not introduced by Ms. Frase, who did not know how to introduce them.

But she’s appealing before the highest court in Maryland. This time she has formidable representation. And her name might go into the annals of jurisprudence if her case turns out to be the fulcrum for change in the way justice is afforded the poor throughout the land of the free.

Maryland’s SunSpot.net has the story here.


In 1963, the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright established that criminal defendants who are in jeopardy of incarceration are entitled to state-provided defense counsel if they can’t afford a lawyer. The case was immortalized first by Anthony Lewis’ book Gideon’s Trumpet (which you should read if you haven’t already) and then by Henry Fonda’s performance in the film adaptation of it.

Now the child custody fight of mother Deborah Frase may prod Maryland’s highest court to adopt a similar rule in civil cases:

Struggling to retain custody of her 3-year-old son, Michael, Deborah Frase became her own lawyer in January 2002.

With the formidable energy of a desperate mother, she held onto her son — for the moment. The court imposed conditions that seem inappropriately intrusive and worse. She might still lose custody of the child if the conditions are violated. Circumstances that might have produced a more favorable outcome were not introduced by Ms. Frase, who did not know how to introduce them.

But she’s appealing before the highest court in Maryland. This time she has formidable representation. And her name might go into the annals of jurisprudence if her case turns out to be the fulcrum for change in the way justice is afforded the poor throughout the land of the free.

Maryland’s SunSpot.net has the story here.

Join the conversation!