In To Kill A Mockingbird, in which chapter does Atticus accept the case of Tom Robinson from Judge Taylor?

The reader first learns that Atticus has accepted Tom Robinson's case in chapter 9 of To Kill a Mockingbird. He has been appointed by the state.

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The trial of Tom Robinson hangs like an enormous weight over the Finch household in the chapters leading up to the actual court proceedings. Atticus, it is made clear in Chapter 9, is representing Tom, who has been unjustly accused of raping a white woman by the town's most virulently racist example of "white trash," Bob Ewell. Scout is troubled by accusations she has heard from others about her father's role in defending Tom, Atticus being an attorney and respected citizen of Maycomb. How and why Atticus came to be in this position, however, is only incrementally revealed. It is in Chapter 9, that Scout challenges her father for the reason he has taken such a highly-divisive case:

“If you shouldn’t be defendin‘ him, then why are you doin’ it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.”

This sentiment -- and it is repeated in Chapter 11 when Atticus states, "This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience—Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man" -- reveals the depth of Atticus' conscience and commitment to do what he believes is the right thing irrespective of its popularity and the ridicule to which it will inevitably expose his family. It is later in the series of exchanges Atticus has with his family, including Atticus' brother Jack, in Chapter 9, that Atticus refers to his appointment to this case by Judge John Taylor:

“Before I’m through, I intend to jar the jury a bit—I think we’ll have a reasonable chance on appeal, though. I really can’t tell at this stage, Jack. You know, I’d hoped to get through life without a case of this kind, but John Taylor pointed at me and said, ‘You’re It.’”

It is in Chapter 9, therefore, that Atticus reveals that he has taken this unpopular case because he was appointed to it by the presiding judge. Atticus could have, conceivably, turned down the judge's request that he defend Tom Robinson, crippled, desperately poor African American. It is emphasized, however, that he accepted the case because of a moral imperative to display for his children and to others his commitment to do what he believes is right.



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To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee reveals how justice, for the people of Maycomb County, is not about fairness but about serving what this community sees as its specific needs, regardless of the rights of Tom Robinson. Harper Lee exposes the justice system and its dependence on the community in delivering a fair verdict; something that is impossible in Maycomb County because of deep-set discrimination, stereotypes and mistrust. Racial prejudice dominates the actions of the community and Tom Robinson's guilt is a foregone conclusion in the minds of the community despite the fact that they know that the Ewell family and especially Mayella's father, has questionable integrity.

Atticus knows from the beginning that he has no likelihood of successfully defending Tom. Tom's innocence is almost immaterial but as Judge Taylor appoints Atticus to defend Tom, there can be no discussion. Atticus mentions that, "John Taylor pointed at me and said, 'You're it.'" It is between chapter 8 and chapter 9 when this apparently takes place and in chapter 9 the reader becomes aware of Atticus's determination to do whatever he can. However, even the fact that Tom admits to feeling "pity" for Mayella Ewell will ultimately prove to be too much for the all-white jury to contend with and Tom will be found guilty. 

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Unlike the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, which depicts Judge Taylor coming to Atticus's house to personally ask him to defend Tom Robinson, the Harper Lee novel has no specific meeting. The first mention of Atticus's acceptance comes during a conversation with his brother, Jack. He informs his brother that an acquittal is an impossibility, but

    "Before I'm through, I intend to jar the jury a bit--I think we'll have a reasonable chance on appeal, though... I'd hoped to get through life without a case of this kind, but John Taylor pointed at me and said, 'You're it.' " 

(This is found in near the end of Chapter 9.)

Oddly, this conversation between the two brothers is not overheard by Scout, so it is not part of her normal narrative. She does not learn that Atticus has been handed the case (rather than volunteering for it) until just before the trial.

    "Lemme tell you somethin' now, Billy," a third said, "you know the court appointed him to defend this nigger."
    ... This was news, news that put a different light on things... 

(This is found midway though Chapter 16.)

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In the novel, unlike the movie, there is not a specific moment when we learn that Atticus has agreed to take Tom Robinson’s case. The first we learn of his involvement in the case is close to the beginning of chapter 9, when a classmate of Scout’s announces that Atticus Finch will be defending a Black man. When Scout questions her father about this, it immediately becomes apparent that Atticus is not a racist, which puts him in stark contrast to many of Maycomb’s other residents. He scolds Scout for using a derogatory racial term when she asks him if the rumor she has heard is true.

When Scout questions him further, Atticus reveals that he is defending a man named Tom Robinson, who attends the same church as Calpurnia, the Finch family’s cook. Later, in chapter 16, we learn that Atticus did not volunteer to defend Tom, but was assigned to do so by Judge Taylor. Taylor assigned the case to Atticus because he knew him to be a man of upstanding character who would do his level best to ensure that Tom Robinson gets a fair trial.

During the family’s initial discussion about Tom Robinson, Atticus warns Scout that there may be some tough times ahead for the family, and he reminds her not to get into fights over this issue.

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The book is unlike the film, because we don't actually see Judge Taylor approach Atticus and ask him to take the case. Instead, the first mention of him accepting the case is when Scout hears kids at school saying terrible things about her father. She comes home from school and questions Atticus, who responds:

Atticus sighed. “I’m simply defending a Negro—his name’s Tom Robinson. He lives in that little settlement beyond the town dump. He’s a member of Calpurnia’s church, and Cal knows his family well. She says they’re clean-living folks. Scout, you aren’t old enough to understand some things yet, but there’s been some high talk around town to the effect that I shouldn’t do much about defending this man. It’s a peculiar case—it won’t come to trial until summer session. John Taylor was kind enough to give us a postponement…”

Later, in Chapter 16, we learn the important detail that Atticus was assigned the case; he did not volunteer. This illustrates the sacrifice that Atticus made by truly defending Tom Robinson. He didn't have to; he had a perfect opportunity to blow it off and keep the town happy. But Judge Taylor assigned him the case specifically because he knew that Atticus would do the right thing. In this chapter, we read:

“Lemme tell you somethin‘ now, Billy,” a third said, “you know the court appointed him to defend this nigger.”

“Yeah, but Atticus aims to defend him. That’s what I don’t like about it.”

Atticus shows what a true defender of the law he is by truly defending Tom Robinson. 

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We are not told specifically when Atticus agrees to take the case, but as the previous answer makes clear, we first learn of it in Chapter 9. This is the first intimation of the difficult times that lie ahead for the Finch family over the case. Atticus counsels Scout to exercise restraint, because the case is going to cause a lot of negative talk and he knows that she is fiery and liable to lash out at the first provocation. He knows there will be plenty of provocation in the days ahead, and he wants her to meet it with dignity.

You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t you let ‘em get your goat.

This is perhaps the first major life lesson that Scout has to learn. Of course, she doesn't learn it all at once, and it's not long before she's fighting her aggravating cousin Francis over the same subject. 

The introduction of Tom Robinson's case in this manner - through Atticus's explanation to the young Scout - is quite appropriate, as of course the whole novel is seen from the young Scout's perspective, with some seasoned remarks from the older Scout in retrospect. The circumstances of the case are not immediately made clear, as Atticus tries to distill it into terms that a child could understand. At this stage, all we really know is that it's something that's going to spell trouble for the Finch family.

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In Chapter 9 of To Kill a Mockingbird, the reader first learns of Atticus's having accepted the role of state-appointed defense attorney for Tom Robinson, who has been charged with allegedly raping Mayella Ewell, after Scout engages in a fight with Cecil Jacobs who accuses Atticus of being a "n***r lover."

Atticus explains to his daughter that he was court appointed to this task, adding,

"...every lawyer gets at least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally."

Later, Scout has a fight with her cousin Francis, who also accuses her father just as Cecil has done, Uncle Jack intervenes. Scout begs him not to tell Atticus, and he keeps the incident secret. However, he asks Atticus about having taken the case; Atticus says that he could not face his children without having done so because he does not want them to grow up with "Maycomb's usual disease."

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