In Argersinger v. Hamlin, decided in 1972, the Supreme Court held that no person may be convicted for any offense, even a misdemeanor, unless he was represented by counsel at trial. In a concurring opinion, Justice Powell expressed concern that this rule would place a strain on local governments paying for all of these attorneys. Justice Douglas, in a footnote, discounted these concerns, and commented that there are so many new attorneys, what’s the worry?
We do not share Mr. Justice POWELL’s doubt that the Nation’s legal resources are sufficient to implement the rule we announce today. It has been estimated that between 1,575 and 2,300 fulltime counsel would be required to represent all indigent misdemeanants, excluding traffic offenders. Note, Dollars and Sense of an Expanded Right to Counsel, 55 Iowa L.Rev. 1249, 1260-1261 (1970). These figures are relatively insignificant when compared to the estimated 355,200 attorneys in the United States (Statistical Abstract of the United States 153 (1971)), a number which is projected to double by the year 1985. See Ruud, That Burgeoning Law School Enrollment, 58 A.B.A.J. 146, 147. Indeed, there are 18,000 new admissions to the bar each year-3,500 more lawyers than are required to fill the ‘estimated 14,500 average annual openings.’ Id., at 148.
LOL. Even back then, the Court knew there were more lawyers than society needed!
Also an interesting footnote, SG Griswold argued this case.
Why am I reading footnotes from obscure opinions in 1972 you ask? Stay tuned. Hint: social cost.