Public Defender System

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.

The public defenders office in Missouri says it's been overloaded for years: too many cases, too few attorneys, too little funding.

Senator Dixon's office

A Republican state senator from Springfield is urging Gov. Nixon to release funds for Missouri’s public defender system. As KSMU’s Scott Harvey reports, Sen. Bob Dixon feels a failure to do so would undermine the legislature’s work to protect public safety.

The system provides representation for defendants who can’t afford lawyers.