Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Gary Oxenhandler called an on-the-record meeting Tuesday of public defenders, prosecutors and private attorneys to discuss his pending appointment of private attorneys to represent indigent persons accused of crimes.
Oxenhandler said he will have one more meeting of attorneys within the next few days. He then plans to establish a protocol for appointment of private attorneys to help the public defender offices with indigent cases.
Oxenhandler acted after he was informed that the public defender's office no longer is able to handle all indigent criminal cases assigned to it by judges in the circuit, which includes Boone and Callaway counties.
Oxenhandler acted after a July 31 Missouri Supreme Court opinion holding a Christian County judge should not have appointed a public defender to represent a defendant after the local public defender office had informed the judge that it had exceeded its maximum caseload and had attempted to decline the case.
"We are on a short fuse," Oxenhandler said, "with regard to coming up with an approach to the fact that on Oct. 1 the public defenders offices in Boone, Callaway and Cole counties, as well as 33 other Missouri counties, are on the clock with regard to the ability of public defenders offices to hear cases. It's clear, based on statistics provided by the public defenders in Callaway and Boone counties, that we will run out of attorney hours not far into the month of October."