Missouri Public Defenders See Little Relief in Budget

Feb 16, 2016

Missouri's public defenders say they need almost twice as many attorneys to handle their caseload, and Gov. Jay Nixon's proposal to increase their budget by $1 million won't solve that problem.

State Public Defender Director Michael Barrett told a Senate panel Tuesday his office is short-staffed by more than 250 attorneys. The Public Defender Commission has requested $23 million to hire more lawyers, contract for more cases and open a new appellate office.

Barrett said public defenders' workload forces them to spend 40 percent less time on cases than private defense attorneys would.

Barrett also said the rising cost of expert witnesses is starting to cut into the department's ability hire new people. His office is holding more than a dozen positions open in order to meet budget.