Missouri public defender warns department in crisis

2 years 7 months 10 hours ago Sunday, February 21 2016 Feb 21, 2016 Sunday, February 21, 2016 1:53:28 PM CST February 21, 2016 in News
By: Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY (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 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 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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