Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Public defender case goes to Mo. Supreme Court

Both sides have filed briefs with the Missouri Supreme Court in a case involving whether the state’s public defenders can turn away cases.

The suit stems July 2010 when a division of the public defenders’ office stopped taking new clients after determining its attorneys had too many cases.

The next month a judge in Christian County assigned a public defender anyway and the public defender system took the matter to the Missouri Supreme Court.

They argue public defenders are risking breaking ethical and professional requirements by taking too many cases, even citing in a recent brief two bar complaints against their own attorneys.

And director Cat Kelly says such complaints are not unusual.

“Unfortunately, it’s not. We have a fair number of bar complaints from clients whose cases are not moving as quickly as they would like or whose lawyers are not able to see them as quickly as they would like,” Kelly said.

But Christian County Prosecutor Amy Fite, among the respondents in the case, says turning away cases is not a solution.

“That’s an extreme measure to take when you have a lot of other options available to you,” Fite said.

The Supreme Court has not yet decided whether it will hear oral arguments in the case.

Maria Altman, St. Louis Public Radio


Post a Comment