Missouri judge's ruling doesn't sit well with overburdened public defenders

October 24, 2017 - 7:29 am

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Public defenders are raising concerns after the Missouri Supreme Court disciplined an attorney with a large caseload of indigent clients and then told another public defender that she must ask permission before denying additional cases.

Missouri State Public Defender Director Michael Barrett said the two decisions have created a conflict. The first ruling was issued last month and led to a Columbia-based public defender being placed on probation for a year for neglecting clients. Barrett blamed the issue on the attorney having too many cases.

Public defenders had sought to limit their caseloads after the ruling. But last week, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled against a southeastern Missouri public defender. She wanted the high court to block a lower court judge from forcing her to take on more clients.

Public defenders across the state have complained for years about overwhelming numbers of clients and a shortage of lawyers to defend them.

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