Director of Public Defenders Blasts Governor Nixon Over Funding for Legal Representation

In a scathing letter dated August 7, Michael Barrett, Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System (MSPD) criticizes Govern Nixon for being “unconcerned” about providing  additional resources for the public defender system.  In asking for $10 million from Nixon in the upcoming supplemental budget, Barrett highlights Nixon’s history of vetoing or withholding funds for public defenders.

For years the MSPD has warned political leaders that the rights of poor Missourians are being violated because MSPD’s resources are too few and the caseloads too high.  These claims have been supported by several national reports that show Missouri’s indigent defense system to be “in crisis”, ranking it 49 among the 50 states in the amount of financial support provided for indigent defense.

Barrett’s letter notes that under Nixon’s administration the Department of Corrections budget has increased by $55 million and that Missouri’s incarceration rate has climbed to 9th nationally.  In citing a recent increase in state revenues, Barrett hints at a lawsuit against the state if their office is not sufficiently funded to guarantee the constitutional rights of indigent persons in the state.

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