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Missouri Public Defender Says Health, Caseload Impacted Work

A public defender is arguing to the Missouri Supreme Court that he shouldn't be suspended after neglecting indigent clients while he dealt with illness and a heavy caseload.

Public defender Karl Hinkebein's attorney instead argued to Missouri Supreme Court judges on Thursday that he should only be reprimanded because of those circumstances.

The Columbia-based public defender admits he failed to properly represent and communicate with six clients between 2011 and 2014. A state agency that investigates attorney misconduct says Hinkebein should be suspended for a year before he can reapply. But Hinkebein's attorney argues he was sick and handling an unreasonable caseload.

The case hits on larger concerns that have been raised by the head of the public defender system about underfunding and unmanageable caseloads.