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Missouri Supreme Court Rules on Public Defender Caseloads

Missouri Capitol
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A state Senate committee is examining legislation allowing children from unaccredited schools to transfer to accredited ones.

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that a southeastern Missouri public defender who says she's overloaded must ask permission from a judge before denying additional cases.

Supreme Court judges this week ruled against public defender Leslie Hazel, who had asked them to block a judge from forcing her to take on more clients. 

Stoddard County Circuit Court Judge Robert Mayer had previously ruled that she didn't ask his permission as outlined in state law.

County Prosecutor Russ Oliver says the ruling will help ensure that the criminal justice system doesn't shut down.

But Missouri State Public Defender Director Michael Barrett said public defenders are stuck in a hard place. He says they face disbarment for accepting cases beyond their abilities or contempt of court for denying cases when they're overwhelmed.