Yesterday, the day Missouri public defenders vowed to stop representing certain people in St. Louis courts, “passed with a whimper and some delays, defying predictions that courts might clog and some of the poor might go without legal representation,” says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Public defenders had said they would not represent certain people on the “misdemeanor confined docket” – those who had been arrested in connection with misdemeanor charges. The lawyers were trying to avoid the “unethical, unprofessional and unconstitutional” practice of “meet ’em and greet ’em and plead ’em.” The defenders said they would not represent poor defendants who said they wanted to plead guilty immediately, out of concern that they wouldn’t know enough about the case for the defenders to ethically and properly represent them.
Some judges, public defenders, and prosecutors workers worried that the defenders’ move would jam courtrooms and keep defendants in jail for extra days. The “confined docket” that usually ends before lunch was completed by 5 p.m., said one prosecutor. The public defenders “ended up representing about three-quarters of the docket, which is what they generally do anyway,” the prosecutor said.