A Missouri judge has ruled that putting individuals on a waiting list to get a public defender violates state and federal law. Governor Parson’s next state budget proposal aims to reduce the line of people waiting for these services. During a House Budget Committee hearing, Public Defender System Director Mary Fox says the governor’s proposal asks for 1.1 million dollars to hire 16 additional attorneys.
“The Public Defender System, which began in 1982, experienced extreme growth in the 1990s when meth came to Missouri. That changed the number of crimes that were occurring in the state and the number that then came to the Public Defender’s attention. As the crime numbers increased, our staffing did not keep up.”
Fox says the office has had a waiting list since 2017. The system has nearly 400 lawyers handling about 90,000 cases annually.