Campus News

Is There Justice for All in America?

"Gideon's Army"

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 20, 2017) — It’s been nearly 50 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling Gideon vs. Wainwright established the right to legal counsel for criminal defendents. Yet, a few courageous lawyers in the Deep South are still trying to revolutionize the way America thinks about indigent defense and to make “justice for all” a reality.

 “Gideon’s Army,” a documentary that follows the personal stories of three of these young, idealistic public defenders, will be screened at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, in the University of Kentucky’s William T. Young Library auditorium. The UK Chellgren Center sponsors the free event, which begins with remarks by UK College of Law Professor Allison Connelly.

The university and Lexington communities are invited to attend the film; admission is free.

The three attorneys featured in the documentary — Travis Williams, Brandy Alexander and June Hardwick — are part of a small group of lawyers challenging the assumptions that drive a criminal justice system strained to the breaking point. Backed by mentor Jonathan “Rap” Rapping, a charismatic leader who heads the Southern Public Defender Training Center (SPDTC, now known as Gideon’s Promise), they struggle against long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads so common that even the most committed often give up in their first year.

“Gideon’s Army” was nominated in 2014 for a News and Documentary Emmy for outstanding informational programming, long-form. It won in the best editing category in the Social Impact Media Awards and received a Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association the same year. The documentary also received awards and praise from the Ridenhour Prizes, the Spirit Awards, and the Sundance Institute and Film Festival, among others. It also earned acclaim and enthusiastic reviews from Esquire, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and dozens of other newspapers and magazines.

The purpose of the Chellgren Seminar Series is to contribute to the intellectual aspects of the undergraduate experience offering provocative presentations on issues that expand our thinking and imagination. The seminar series is sponsored by the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence, which is part of the Division of Student and Academic Life at UK.


Scene from "Gideon's Army"
Scene from "Gideon's Army"

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