Gideon Award

Each era finds an improvement in law for the benefit of mankind - Author Clarence Earl Gideo

The United States Constitution was designed to ensure equality. The U.S. Supreme Court expanded that meaning in 1963, when it ruled that “in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.” The spirit of that ruling is alive in each one of the lawyers who stands next to an indigent person in court today.

On March 18, 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court dramatically altered the face of the criminal justice system. In a decision supported by 22 state attorney generals, one poor man from the Florida panhandle convinced the nation’s nine top jurists that he was convicted unfairly without representation by legal counsel. The Public Defender’s Office commemorates the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision – Gideon v. Wainwright – by honoring the work of people who seek to guarantee equal justice for the poor.

The Public Defender’s Office presents The Gideon Award to a recipient, or recipients, who have manifested an honorable, consistent and recognizable effort to ensure equal justice for the indigent in our community. The Gideon Award was first presented in 2003.


  • 2003 Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte
  • 2004 Retired Circuit Court Judge Edward Rodgers and retired County Court Judge Barry Cohen
  • 2005 Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead
  • 2006 Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project
  • 2007 19 Public Defender employees with over 25 years of service
  • 2008 Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director, Equal Justice Initiative
  • 2012 Amy Bach, Founder of Measures for Justice
  • 2013 The Innocence Project of Florida
  • 2014 US Congressman Ted Deutch
  • 2016 Marsha Levick, co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center