Public Defender System Head Warns of Crisis

March 18, 2006 - Posted at 9:04 p.m. CST

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) _ The director of the State Public Defender

System yesterday warned that Missouri is losing the ability to

provide good attorneys to represent poor people in court.

J- Marty Robinson told a Joplin audience that a recent study

found Missouri is paying among the lowest salaries in the nation

for public defenders. He also said his office leads state

government for the amount of employee turnover.

He said the system's 350 attorneys now carry 298 cases each,

jeopardizing their ability to effectively represent their clients.

In fact, he said more cases are now ending in guilty pleas as

opposed to trials and appellate courts are overturning cases for

ineffective counsel.

This year, Governor Blunt has proposed a four percent pay

increase for all state employees and lawmakers have added one

million dollars to the public defender budget in its proposed


(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)