A Cole County Circuit Court has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the Missouri Public Defender System director against Governor Nixon. In July, director Michael Barrett filed a lawsuit, arguing that the Governor doesn’t have the authority to withhold $3.5 million of his office’s $4.5 million budget increase. Nixon cited lower than expected revenue for freezing more than $115-million in the current budget.
In August, Barrett assigned Nixon to serve as a public defender, as a protest to Nixon’s budget freeze. A court ruled in favor of Nixon, saying the Public Defender director doesn’t have the authority to appoint the governor to serve as legal counsel. Judge Patricia Joyce says only courts can appoint public defenders.
In a statement from Nixon, he says today’s court decision affirms the governor’s authority to keep the budget balanced.
“This constitutional authority has enabled me to maintain strict fiscal discipline, protect Missouri’s spotless AAA credit rating, and keep our economy moving forward,” says Nixon. “As a result of our fiscal discipline, the Office of Public Defender has seen a 15% increase in funding and a nearly five% increase in staff during my tenure, even while other state agencies have had to tighten their belts and full-time state employment has been reduced by nearly 5,100. It is my hope that the Office of Public Defender will now return its attention to the job it has to do, and the resources already available with which to do it.”
Missourinet contacted Barrett for a response, but he has not yet returned our inquiry.