Missouri State Public Defender


The Missouri Supreme Court ruled last week that a public defender in southeast Missouri had to get approval from a judge before rejecting new cases.

The head of Missouri’s Public Defender System, Michael Barrett, tells KSMU the most recent ruling creates a conflict for his team of attorneys because they are expected to take on an extraordinarily high number of cases—while still being held to the same ethical standards, and disciplanary action, as other lawyers.

Jennifer Moore / KSMU

The class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU and others against the state of Missouri over its public defender system has been moved from state to federal court, according to Missouri’s public court records database. 

Jacquie Shipma, General Counsel for the Missouri State Public Defender, told KSMU that either court would have been appropriate, since the lawsuit alleges violations of both state and federal law.

But all of the defendants have agreed to have the case moved to federal court, which is a requirement for the change.

Today, we begin our five-part series, “Justice for All: The Missouri Public Defender System in Crisis.” In this segment, KSMU’s Jennifer Moore looks at why the system has been shutting its doors, and how one rural Ozarks man is caught in the middle of it all.

Behind layer after layer of steel and concrete, 22-year-old Jared Blacksher has been sitting for five months in the Christian County jail without an attorney.