MO Public Defenders Refuse Some Cases, Citing Too Much Work


Officials of Missouri’s public defender system warned the St. Louis County’s chief judge and that they have begun steps to refuse to take new criminal cases here, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. They said they are overworked and lack time to provide effective counsel. The move was met with an angry rebuke from Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, who said, “It’s a contrived issue made up to get more money out of the legislature and less work for themselves.”

Peter Sterling, general counsel for the public defender system, said its St. Louis County office worked at 160 percent of its capacity in June. The agency has long complained of underfunding. St. Louis County is the defenders’ third battleground. Last week, they closed the offices in Troy, Mo., and Springfield to new cases through the end of July. McCulloch said he wants to see real statistics and lists of case numbers before courts even begin talking about ways to avoid a shutdown. “They are counting their cases in some magical way,” he said. “I’m not convinced that anyone is chronically overworked in the criminal justice system in St. Louis County.”

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