Public Defender System May Stop Accepting New Clients

FEBRUARY 26, 2007 - Posted at 3:16 p.m. CST

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Public defenders in Missouri are so overworked that the state commission that oversees them may move to stop accepting new clients.

It isn't clear what will happen to indigent clients if the system stops taking on new cases. Cathy Kelly, deputy director of the Missouri Public Defender System, says the courts would have to decide.

Last week, the Missouri Public Defenders Commission narrowly turned down what one member dubbed the ``nuclear option.'' Instead, the commission voted to meet Friday to again consider a halt to new clients until caseloads decrease.

Missouri's 350 public defenders handle nearly 90-thousand cases each year, an increase of 12-thousand when compared to six years ago. A Senate committee earlier this month said the system was in ``crisis mode.''

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)