Indigent criminal defendants in almost half of Missouri’s counties might soon be put on waiting lists for representation by public defenders. Additional offices are on the verge of turning away new defendants.
Five public defender offices are closing every month when their limits on new case work are reached: Springfield, Troy, Lebanon, Ava, and Liberty. One reached its maximum case load on October 18th. Others didn’t start refusing business until the last week of the month.
Deputy Director Cat Kelly of the state public defender’s office says ten more offices are likely to impose limits soon.: Carthage, Jackson, Kirksville, Maryville, Hannibal, Columbia, Harrisonville, Jefferosn City, Clayton, and Rolla.
Those ten plus the earlier five point to widespread overloading of the system. “Fifty-six out of Missouri’s 114, 115 counties are on the verge of being impacted by this,” she says.
The five public defender offices already under worklad limits are taking cases again today. But many of those cases are leftovers from previous months, meaning newer cases get delayed further