Not enough money, public defender appoints gov. as defense attorney

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, center, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, left, and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay call for peace as they discuss preparations in anticipation of the announcement of the grand jury decision in the Darren Wilson case, on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. A grand jury has reached a decision about whether to indict the Ferguson police officer in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. (AP Photo/The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Huy Mach) EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT, THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT
Caption
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, center, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, left, and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay call for peace as they discuss preparations in anticipation of the announcement of the grand jury decision in the Darren Wilson case, on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. A grand jury has reached a decision about whether to indict the Ferguson police officer in the shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown. (AP Photo/The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Huy Mach) EDWARDSVILLE INTELLIGENCER OUT, THE ALTON TELEGRAPH OUT

Credit: Huy Mach

Credit: Huy Mach

Inundated, overwhelmed and underfunded, Missouri's lead public defender dusted off a rarely used law and ordered Gov. Jay Nixon to represent indigent defendants this month.

In a letter to Nixon, Michael Barrett indicated Tuesday that he is using the provision that allows him the ability to appoint any standing member of the Missouri bar regardless of whether they are a public defender.

"Given the extraordinary circumstances that compel me to entertain any and all avenues for relief, it strikes me that I should begin with the one attorney in the state who not only created this problem, but is in a unique position to address it," Barrett wrote.

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Nixon was appointed to defend a man charged with assault, according to The Washington Post.

Barrett said his budget has been slashed to the point that he can not hire lawyers to fill vacant positions and that caseloads have increased 12 percent from the previous year.

The state's public defender system needs nearly 270 more attorneys to meet its case volume a 2014 study found, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Barrett told the Post-Dispatch he has lost about 30 attorneys since that study was done. 

 Barrett told The Post the office's 376 current attorneys handled more than 82,000 cases last year.

Nixon did not comment to the Post, Post-Dispatch or other media outlets.

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