Court: State, Governor Can't Be Sued Over Public Defenders

6 months 1 week 2 days ago Friday, January 11 2019 Jan 11, 2019 Friday, January 11, 2019 12:15:00 PM CST January 11, 2019 in News
By: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri and its governor cannot be sued over the state's underfunded and understaffed public defender system, a federal appeals court has ruled.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday said the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity means the state can't commit a legal wrong and cannot be sued unless the legislature makes exceptions in state law, KCUR reported .

American Civil Liberties Union-Missouri filed the class action lawsuit in 2017. The organization argued the governor and state haven't ignored their constitutional obligation to provide meaningful legal representation to indigent clients by not providing enough funds to address chronic underfunding and understaffing in the public defender system . ACLU-Missouri argues in the lawsuit that Mississippi is the only state to allocate less than the $355 per case that Missouri spends for its indigent defense budget.

The lawsuit will continue against the head of the public defender system, Michael Barrett, and the public defender commission.

The decision, written by Judge Duane Benton, does not address the merits of the lawsuit. But the ruling means the legislature can't be forced to appropriate more money to the system.

"It would be easier if the state itself were a defendant," said Tony Rothert, legal director of ACLU-Missouri.

Rothert said if the ACLU prevails against the other defendants, the court could order the state to reduce public defenders' caseloads, or prosecutors could use their discretion to not bring charges for certain crimes. Or defendants who aren't considered dangerous could be released on bail and put on a waiting list for public defenders rather than staying in jail while awaiting trial.

"So there are numerous ways to solve this problem," Rothert said. "The easiest way, I think, was to give more money so the defender's office could hire more lawyers. But there are other ways that might even be better for justice overall."

The lawsuit seeks class-action status to cover all indigent defendants in Missouri charged with crimes that carry prison sentences. Missouri's public defenders typically handle 80,000 cases a year, so the potential class could be in the tens of thousands of individuals.

When the lawsuit was filed, Missouri had 370 public defenders statewide. Studies have said Missouri's system should have nearly twice that many public defenders to meet standards set by the American Bar Association for adequate representation of clients.

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - A federal judge sentenced a Columbia man Monday morning for his role in a drug trafficking case. ... More >>
1 hour ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 5:27:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Transportation will receive $81.2 million to replace the Rocheport Bridge. The money will... More >>
2 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 4:36:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. — A Chicago man faces criminal charges related to a suspicious package case in Holts Summit. ... More >>
2 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 4:11:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A roof collapsed early this morning from too much rain. The apartment complex had a temporary fix... More >>
3 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:59:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Users of the popular social sharing site Reddit are upset after they say a scammer targeted them--posing as... More >>
3 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:50:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
MOBERLY - Contaminants stemming from an Orscheln facility may be in Moberly's air and sewers, and the City Council voted... More >>
4 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:12:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Close to 90,000 children and 23,000 adults have been dropped from Missouri's Medicaid health insurance program... More >>
4 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:03:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A power outage has caused Lincoln University to close for the rest of Monday. The... More >>
7 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 11:37:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
MACKS CREEK — A building in Camden County has collapsed after floodwaters compromised the structure. According to a Facebook... More >>
8 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 10:28:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
ESTES PARK, CO. — John Drage doesn’t know how many more miles he’s got left in him. Every step,... More >>
9 hours ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 9:28:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
STRAFFORD — A KY3 viewer, JD Matney, shared this video of a mountain lion walking along just north of Strafford.... More >>
22 hours ago Sunday, July 21 2019 Jul 21, 2019 Sunday, July 21, 2019 8:24:00 PM CDT July 21, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA — Columbia police responded to a report of shots fired early Sunday morning. The incident occurred on Apple... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, July 21 2019 Jul 21, 2019 Sunday, July 21, 2019 6:08:00 PM CDT July 21, 2019 in News
LAKE OF THE OZARKS - Missouri Highway Patrol Troop F responded to a boat fire at the Lake of the... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, July 21 2019 Jul 21, 2019 Sunday, July 21, 2019 5:40:00 PM CDT July 21, 2019 in Continuous News
JEFFERSON CITY - FEMA opened the doors of a new Disaster Recovery Center in Cole County over the weekend. ... More >>
1 day ago Sunday, July 21 2019 Jul 21, 2019 Sunday, July 21, 2019 1:37:00 PM CDT July 21, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — A Columbia teenager is home safe after she was missing for almost two days. Summer Skye Allen,... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, July 20 2019 Jul 20, 2019 Saturday, July 20, 2019 9:05:00 PM CDT July 20, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA — Three men were arrested after allegedly stealing $22,000 worth of electronics from a Moberly Walmart Saturday. Several... More >>
1 day ago Saturday, July 20 2019 Jul 20, 2019 Saturday, July 20, 2019 6:53:00 PM CDT July 20, 2019 in Continuous News
CENTERTOWN - Family, friends and even strangers showed up to celebrate Jasen Smith's life at his Memorial Benefit at Apple... More >>
2 days ago Saturday, July 20 2019 Jul 20, 2019 Saturday, July 20, 2019 4:35:00 PM CDT July 20, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Police confirmed a runaway teen missing since Thursday was found safe Saturday afternoon. Summer Skye Allen was... More >>
2 days ago Saturday, July 20 2019 Jul 20, 2019 Saturday, July 20, 2019 4:03:00 PM CDT July 20, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 83°
7pm 76°
8pm 74°
9pm 71°
10pm 70°