Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Missouri Addresses Public Defender Overload

All around the US, public defender caseloads are growing faster than public defender budgets and staff.  We are seeing something similar to the National Healthcare System in the UK where service and delay has gotten worse and worse even while consuming ever-larger shares of tax dollars.
I would hate to be caught up in a system like this.  If I were charged with a crime, I would find any legal way I could to hire a private attorney to represent me and give my case the attention it deserves.
A new rule set to begin Oct. 1 will permit the state's public defender system to defer certain criminal cases in a move that proponents say should give the state's low-income defendants quality legal representation that has been lacking during a decade of swelling caseloads and dwindling resources. 
. . . 
But a July 31 Missouri Supreme Court ruling says the Missouri Public Defender Commission, which oversees the state's 150 public defenders, has the authority to set maximum caseloads if the defender's office asserts that the caseload capacity was exceeded.
"The issue has been going on for a long time," said Cat Kelly, director of the state's public defender system. "The fact is there are too many cases and not enough public defenders to handle them."

- John