Missouri public defender system in "crisis mode"

Missouri public defender system in "crisis mode"
By: Ryan Tate
A Missouri senate committee says the public defender system is in "crisis mode," but offers no changes on how to improve it. According to the Missouri Public Defender Commission, caseloads have gone up by 12,000 over the past six years. In 2006, public defenders handled more than 88,000 cases.
In District 32 of Missouri, which includes Perry, Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Scott and Mississippi Counties, District Defender Christopher Davis says his department handles sixty new cases a week, and nearly 3,000 cases in 2006. "If you do the math, 3,000 cases and ten attorneys. That's less than a day per case we can devote, whether it's a misdemeanor or a murder," Davis said.
Davis says this does not mean his attorneys do not devote enough time to important cases, but the numbers illustrate the increasing number of cases public defenders work on. "It's like a lifeboat, you take on too many passengers eventually you're going to sink," Davis said.
He hopes the Missouri Legislature will help out the Public Defender System, by allocating more money or somehow decreasing the workload of attorneys. "I think something needs to be done by the legislature for funding otherwise the judicial system will reach gridlock."