Missouri public defender offices continue turning away cases

Friday, October 29, 2010 | 10:37 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Missouri's public defender system says four more of its regional offices are turning away new defendants after hitting maximum caseloads.

The temporary closings bring the number of regional offices to six that have refused new cases in the past several months.

System deputy director Cat Kelly said Thursday the Lebanon Public Defender Office hit its maximum monthly caseload Oct. 18 and closed its doors to new clients for the rest of the month.

Since then, the offices in Ava, Liberty and Hillsboro have done the same. All but Hillsboro serve multiple counties.

Missouri's public defender system represents criminal defendants who cannot afford private lawyers. Caseload issues aren't new, but the problem has become more acute as the number of indigent defendants has grown faster than state funding for the offices.

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