COLUMN: Improving public defender system is predicament for Missouri

Thursday, March 18, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:42 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Missouri Public Defender System is pitifully underfunded and overloaded. A basic constitutional principle (the Sixth Amendment) is the right to counsel, and courts held long ago in Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963 that the right is so basic that counsel will be provided if a person cannot afford it. Understandably, few citizens and legislators actively support increasing public defender funding when K-12 education programs, mental health programs and state employee health benefits and holidays are being cut.