Missouri Public Defenders Suffer Under Heavy Caseload

The Missouri state Supreme Court recently suspended public defender, Karl William Hinkebein, for failure to provide adequate representation to 6 clients between the years 2011 and 2013.

Hinkebein is just one of the 370 Missouri public defenders handling more than 80,000 criminal cases a year. As a result of the prosecution of Hinkebein, many public defenders are refusing to take on more clients.

“They just demonstrated they’re going to prosecute us,” stated Michael Barrett, director of the Missouri public defender system “And the Supreme Court just demonstrated that they’re going to punish us.”

Public defenders in Missouri are between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they have the local courts, who can hold them in contempt for refusing to add a case to their already heavy caseload. On the other hand, they have the state Supreme Court threatening to take their license if they do take on more cases.

Missouri has one of the lowest-funded public defender systems in the United States, second only to Mississippi. Missouri allocates only $335 per case to its indigent defense budget.

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