public defenders

James Cridland via Flickr

When people of means encounter injustice or are accused of crimes, they hire an attorney to represent them in a court of law. But for people living in poverty, their choices are more limited.

If it’s a criminal case, a defendant will be assigned a public defender. If it’s a civil case, the individual can apply for aid with their local branch of legal services. But despite these options, low-income people are at a disadvantage in the American justice system, say St. Louis attorneys who serve the poor.

Several public defender offices around the state have notified courts they will not be taking cases beyond their maximum caseload this month.

The 18 offices around Missouri include ones in St. Louis, St. Charles, Jefferson City and Springfield.

In St. Louis instead of turning away all cases public defenders met with the 22ndCircuit Court and the Circuit Attorney’s office to craft a different solution.

James Cridland via Flickr

Missouri’s public defenders won a big case before the state supreme court this summer.

The Supreme Court of Missouri
via Flickr | david_shane

Well, the Missouri Supreme Court has certainly done its part for the news cycle today with an array of decisions.

Here's a quick taste of what happened, and links to our separate stories so you can dig in to find out more about each.

(via Flickr/s_falkow)

The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that a judge should not have appointed a public defender to a client after the public defenders alerted the courts they had too many cases.

The court handed down the 4-3 decision Tuesday.

The case goes back to July 2010 when a Christian County judge appointed a public defender despite their "limited availability" status.

Christian County prosecutor Amy Fite says it’s hard on victims and defendants when cases are held up.

(via Flickr/s_falkow)
  • Listen to the oral arguments before the Missouri Supreme Court in this case

Missouri’s public defenders have argued for years that they have too many cases.

So in 2010 the public defender commission put a plan in place that allowed each of its districts to stop taking cases when its attorneys became too busy.

M.L. Fuller (Image 336)/USGS

Mo. schools and residents to prepare for next big earthquake

It was nearly 200 years ago that the first in a series of massive earthquakes shook Missouri and much of the nation. Now, several Missouri school districts will take part in a drill to prepare for the next big one.

State officials say that nearly 100 districts and individual schools have registered for Missouri's second statewide earthquake drill at 10:15 a.m. on Feb. 7. Meanwhile, more than 146,000 residents are also registered for the drill, called the "Great Central U.S. ShakeOut."

(via Flickr/steakpinball)

Updated 9:18 a.m. Dec. 14:

As we mentioned Tuesday morning, the Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether the state's public defenders can turn away cases.

Flickr/david-shane

Mo. Supreme Court to hear arguments in public defender case

A case that could decide how Missouri public defenders deal with case overload will be heard by the state's Supreme Court today. In July 2010 the public defender office in Christian County announced it had reached its case threshold and could take no more cases. The next month a judge assigned an indigent defendant to that office anyway and the public defender system filed suit.

St. Louis University law professor Susan McGraugh says the high court's decision could have a big impact.