Lawsuit by the ACLU and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center says it would take an additional $20 million per year and 300 more lawyers for the public defender system “to meet the constitutional floor of providing minimally adequate representation to indigent defendants.”
The lawsuit describes defendants waiting months in jail to meet a lawyer, defenders who are overworked and so little funding that in some areas, low-level offenders don’t get a public defender at all. Without lawyers to advocate for them, some defendants have been advised to plead guilty rather than pursue their right to try clearing their names.
Frustrated by the lack of funding for his office, Michael Barrett invokes a law allowing him to name any lawyer to represent a poor person. Gov. Jay Nixon, he says, is the “one attorney in the state who not only created the problem, but is in a unique position to address it.”