Missouri PD System Needs $10 Million for More Lawyers, Says PD Chief Michael Barrett

LBN has recently focused on the status of public defender offices in several states, including Missouri. Since the earlier report, Missouri Public Defender state director Michael Barrett has requested that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon provide the public defenders with an additional $10 million in the supplement to the current year’s budget. Barrett explains the request in this report.

Michael Barrett

Michael Barrett

Barrett says the public defender system needs about fifty new attorneys to help out in the most overburdened offices in the state. Barrett explains that the request uses the ABA study, The Missouri Project to establish workload capacities for individual lawyers. Based on that study, Barrett says, every PD office is over 100% capacity. Some of them are running as high as 250% of workload capacity based on the report’s guidelines. The latter offices are the ones that need immediate attention.

Barrett points out a Department of Justice report showing that juveniles, especially African-Americans, did not receive adequate representation in St. Louis County. “I hope that this will be enough to spur a conversation with the governor’s office” about the public defender’s funding and staffing needs to meet its obligations under the U.S. and Missouri constitutions.

The $10 million funding request is something for the Missouri general assembly to consider when it meets again in January, 2016.

Michael Barrett is state director of the Missouri Public Defender System. Over his career, he has worked with the FBI and the Department of Defense. He also worked for the New York Commission on Sentencing Reform. He also worked for Missouri Governor Jay Nixon as Deputy General Counsel. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.