During the season of giving, Jennifer Bukowsky, former public defender and founder of Bukowsky Law Firm LLC, has donated $300,000 to provide attorneys in nearly 500 pending criminal cases.
“I’ve been looking at trying to figure out a way to help with the situation,” Bukowsky said. “I was a public defender, and this seemed like the most efficient and effective way to help with the case overload.”
In Boone County, 650 people are awaiting an attorney — and some of these people have been waiting since June 2018, according to a Missouri State Public Defender news release. In 23 other Missouri counties, around 2,000 cases are on waitlists.
The pandemic has made the situation even worse, lengthening the process and rendering it even more difficult for attorneys to meet with their clients, especially those in jail, the Missourian reported.
Bukowsky’s donation is directed at these defendants in need.
“This Court fervently desires defendants who are indigent and accused of crime to be represented by counsel,” said Kevin Crane, 13th Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge, in the release. “We are grateful for Ms. Bukowsky’s generous donation to pay for counsel for these defendants.”
Defendants are eligible for legal representation at state expense under the 14th and Sixth Amendments, according to Supreme Court interpretation. The waitlist was implemented in September 2017 in Boone County to reduce the number of cases public defenders were handling at any given time, according to previous Missourian reporting.
During her career as a criminal defense attorney, Bukowsky said, she handled 1,400 criminal cases.
“As a former public defender, Jennifer understands the importance of criminal defendants not only having an attorney, but having an attorney who has the necessary time to provide each client competent representation,” said Mary Fox, director of the Missouri State Public Defender System, in the news release. “This donation will assist these applicants, as well as the current clients of MSPD attorneys in Boone County.”
Bukowsky said the money should help people immediately.
“They needed the funds to be able to hire those attorneys, so they should be able to expeditiously get representation for all those folks who have been waiting a long time to have an attorney.”