Private attorneys offer to help overworked public defenders
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Private attorneys in the St. Louis area have committed to take over some cases from the state's overburdened public defender system on a volunteer basis.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that a new nonprofit group, called the Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel, is behind the plan. It calls for younger private sector attorneys to handle certain jury cases for indigent defendants in the circuit courts of St. Louis and St. Louis County. Besides reducing public defender caseloads, the young attorneys can gain trial experience.
More than a dozen St. Louis area firms are pledging to provide volunteers, with training to start in April.
Organizers say the plan is unrelated to a lawsuit filed earlier this month. The suit seeks to force the state to increase funding.