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Missouri public defender warns department in crisis

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Missouri public defender warns department in crisis

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – The head of Missouri’s public defender system is warning that the strain on his department could be grounds for a federal lawsuit. 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 Governor […]

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – The head of Missouri’s public defender system is warning that the strain on his department could be grounds for a federal lawsuit.

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 Governor 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 says his department’s caseload calls for almost twice as many attorneys than he can hire. He says the department’s high turnover exacerbates the problem.

He says that unless the legislature boosts funding, the state could face a lawsuit.

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