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Cat Kelly named new director of Missouri Public Defender System

Thursday, November 4, 2010 | 5:44 p.m. CDT; updated 8:22 p.m. CDT, Thursday, November 4, 2010
Cat Kelly, currently deputy director for the Missouri Public Defender System, will be replacing director J. Marty Robinson on March 1.

COLUMBIA — Cat Kelly will be the new director of the state’s public defender system.

Kelly, who has been serving as deputy director since 2006, will take over as director on March 1, 2011. The Missouri State Public Defender Commission announced the decision Thursday.

Kelly is succeeding J. Marty Robinson, who has directed the system for 16 years. 

“We have known for quite some time that he was going to be stepping down,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the commission did a national search and that she applied for the position. She learned on Monday that she had been chosen.

The Missouri Public Defender System has been in the news because some of its offices have been denying new clients, saying their caseloads already are too high. Kelly plans to find a solution.

“The main thing is to continue the process we're in,” Kelly said. “We’re in the middle of trying to guarantee caseload limits for public defenders.”

Kelly said she has been working toward legislation the past two years that she thinks would keep the defender system stable. She said lawmakers understand the challenges and needs of the system.

“We know we're in tough economic times, and we are certainly willing to work with anyone and everyone to find a solution,” Kelly said. “There is a real motivation to find a fix for this.”

Kelly, of St. Louis, has been involved in Missouri law since she received her juris doctorate from the Washington University School of Law and has been working for the Missouri Public Defender System since 1984. She said she plans to move either to Jefferson City or to Columbia.


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