Local attorneys may be appointed as defense lawyers for some crimes

Caseloads too high for public defenders

To help ease an excessive workload of local public defenders, Callaway County attorneys may be asked to provide free representation to indigent persons accused of minor crimes.

Thirteenth Judicial Circuit President Judge Gary Oxenhandler said next month he may begin assigning private attorneys to provide free legal representation to some indigent people facing some criminal charges.

Because their caseloads are excessive, public defenders in Boone and Callaway counties plan at some point next month to stop accepting applications for representation for all persons facing criminal offenses.

Callaway County’s public defender’s office also shares resources with Montgomery and Audrain counties.

Oxenhandler has asked judges in the circuit to set priorities on cases to make sure that most urgent cases receive representation first. He said a domestic violence case needs a higher priority than a driving-while-license-is-revoked charge.

Public defenders throughout the state are reacting after the Missouri Supreme Court issued an opinion on July 31 that a Christian County judge should not have appointed a public defender to represent a defendant after the local public defender office said it had exceeded its maximum caseload and had attempted to decline the case.

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