1) n. a person so poor and needy that he/she cannot provide the necessities of life (food, clothing, decent shelter) for himself/herself. 2) n. one without sufficient income to afford a lawyer for defense in a criminal case. If the court finds a person is an indigent, the court must appoint a public defender or other attorney to represent him/her. This constitutional right of counsel for the indigent was determined by Gideon v. Wainright in 1963, when a penciled letter from a prisoner came to the attention of prominent Washington attorney Abe Fortas, who carried the case to the Supreme Court for free. Fortas later became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. 3) adj. referring to a person who is very poor and needy.