Private Law Firms Called on to Ease Stress from public Defenders
MDN Menu
MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

Private Law Firms Called on to Ease Stress from public Defenders

Date: February 11, 2009
By: Max Reiss
State Capitol Bureau
Links: SB 37

Intro: With a shortage of more than one hundred and ninety lawyers, Missouri Public Defenders have been asking for assistance since 2000. One lawmaker is trying to lighten the load on public counsel by offering up private law firms to help out.

Max Reiss (REECE) has more from the State Capitol.

OutCue: SOC

Missouri has three hundred and sixty public defenders but according to the Missouri Public Defender Commission, there aren't enough to manage the caseload.

Mount Vernon Republican Senator Jack Goodman's bill, if passed, would let local districts hire private law firms to take on public defense cases.

Goodman says not giving proper legal counsel could lead to serious consequences.

Actuality:  GOOD4.WAV
Run Time: 00:13
Description: "If we fail to adequately provide that we could see an unmassed release of a huge number of criminal defendants. And that is clearly not good for our communities, for the crime victims, or for any law abiding Missourians."
Goodman says the bill wouldn't hire more public defenders but would take pressure off overworked public defenders.
From Jefferson City, I'm Max Reiss, 1120 KMOX News.
Intro: One Missouri lawmakers aims to make life easier for public defense lawyers who are spread thin. The plan is to hire private lawyers to take on cases normally worked by public defenders.

Max Reiss (REECE) has more from Jefferson City.

OutCue: SOC

A bill in the Missouri Senate could lighten the caseload for public defenders and redirect that weight to private law firms' shoulders.

Jackson Republican Senator Jack Goodman sponsors the bill and said the state's public defender shortage could lead to setting hundreds of criminals free.

Actuality:  GOOD5.WAV
Run Time: 00:14
Description: "This simply is not a question of putting more resources into assisting criminal defendants. It is a matter of making sure that the state is meeting it's constitutional requirements so that when people are convicted, those convictions aren't overturned."

Goodman says the bill would not provide extra public defenders but instead give districts other options when dealing with defendants who can't afford legal counsel.

From the State Capitol, I'm Max Reiss, 1120 KMOX News.

Missouri Digital News is produced by Missouri Digital News, Inc. -- a non profit organization of current and former journalists.