Associate circuit judges in the 13th Judicial Circuit in Fulton and Columbia met Friday with presiding Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler to discuss pending appointment of private attorneys to help ease the workload of public defenders.
Oxenhandler told the judges he would give them plenty of authority to run their courtroom as they want except for the obstacles he was placing before them on appointment of counsel.
Oxenhandler said he has not yet worked out a formal procedure for appointing private attorneys.
He noted that attorneys in Callaway County have made a compelling case for including all attorneys who live in the circuit to serve clients in both Columbia and Fulton. Only a few attorneys live in Callaway County and many of the attorneys practicing at the Callaway County Courthouse are from Columbia.
To help ease the caseload of public defenders, Oxenhandler said it has been suggested that private attorneys be appointed for most misdemeanor cases, misdemeanor parole violations, felony parole violations and perhaps some nonviolent felony cases.
Oxenhandler is considering appointing private attorneys to defend indigent persons charged with crimes 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.