Public defenders may refuse St. Louis County cases

St. Louis, MO – Missouri's largest county has been warned that the state public defender system may soon refuse to take new criminal cases.

Cat Kelly of the Missouri Public Defender System said Thursday that St. Louis County is on notice because public defenders are overworked and underfunded, but St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch disagrees.

He planned to formally ask Governor Jay Nixon and state Auditor Susan Montee on Thursday for a performance audit of the public defender system. McCulloch says the public defenders are simply trying to get more money from the Legislature, and less work.

Kelly says the system is in crisis across the state. Two offices have already stopped taking new clients and 14 others, like St. Louis County, are on notice.