JEFFERSON CITY • The state’s overburdened public defender system could soon see some relief, as private attorneys in the St. Louis area have committed to taking over some cases on a volunteer basis.
A new nonprofit group, the Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel, has proposed a system where younger attorneys in the private sector try certain jury cases in the circuit courts of St. Louis and St. Louis County, where they can gain trial experience and reduce the caseloads for public defenders.
More than a dozen St. Louis area firms have pledged to provide volunteers, who will undergo training from public defenders in April and then begin assisting with their overwhelming workload.
Years of underfunding the public defender’s office has culminated in a lawsuit filed against the state by the ACLU of Missouri, who argues that Missouri has failed to meet its constitutional obligation to adequately provide counsel to indigent defendants.
But …