Rural Missouri county going to privatized public defenders
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — One rural Missouri county is moving to a privatized system for public defenders, a system that some advocates would like to see become more common.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that starting March 1, people charged with crimes in Texas County who cannot afford an attorney will get private lawyers, with the state footing the bill. That's because the Missouri State Public Defender has decided to completely privatize the southern Missouri county, which has about 26,000 residents.
Missouri's public defender office has been underfunded for years, leading to heavy caseloads. The ACLU of Missouri filed suit alleging the system fails to provide even "minimally adequate representation to indigent defendants."
Privatizing public defender duties has gained some traction in the Missouri House.