Missouri Public Defender Warns Department in Crisis

Feb 22, 2016

The head of Missouri's public defender system is warning that the strain on his department could be grounds for a federal lawsuit.

Credit File photo / KBIA

The Office of the State Public Defender is asking for a funding boost of more than $25 million for the fiscal year that starts in July. But Gov. Jay Nixon's budget proposal calls for a $1.5 million increase to the department. Most of it slated for "representation costs," though he isn't proposing to add more full-time employees.

Office of the State Public Defender director Michael Barrett said his department's caseload calls for almost twice as many attorneys than he can hire. He said the department's high turnover exacerbates the problem.

Barrett said that unless the legislature boosts funding, the state could face a lawsuit.