Anthony Lewis, who covered the Supreme Court for the New York Times for ten years, brings an expert's understanding of issues and a reporter's flair for a story to the task of interpreting the Supreme Court today, and the landmark Gideon case provides the perfect framework. Gideon was the poor petitioner whose request for a lawyer had been denied in a Florida court; from prison he requested a writ of certiorari which would bring up his case from a lower court, and also bring up for review a previous decision--Betts v. Brady--holding that poor men accused of crime did not have an absolute right to counsel in their defense. The author reviews the role of the Supreme Court in deciding questions of federal law, either regarding statutes passed by Congress or the meaning of the Constitution, and shows how Gideon's case falls into the latter category; he explores the history and ramifications of the particular Constitutional question involved, and indicates why the justices were eager to take it up. How the justices go about their work and how a large law firm (Fortas' for Gideon) operates, provides the essential prelude to the consideration of the arguments, written and oral. The decision--a unanimous victory for Gideon, the justices agreeing for different reasons--is history, but Mr. Lewis doesn't leave it at that. He follows the decision into the states, as one after another made specific provision for the defense of indigents, and into the Florida courtroom where Gideon was retired with a lawyer of his own choosing, and acquitted. It was a triumph for Gideon personally and for the American people generally, and the author has succeeded in making the small and the large aspects of the Court's work equally engrossing.