JEFFERSON CITY — Seven judges have been dismissed from a lawsuit over Missouri's use of wait lists for public defenders.

Judge William Hickle, presiding judge in the 25th Circuit, ruled Monday the judges were not necessary parties to the lawsuit, The Jefferson City News-Tribune reported.

Civil rights advocates filed the lawsuit in February, contending that wait lists deprived thousands of people of their right to an attorney. The lawsuit contends about 4,600 people were on the lists, making criminal defendants wait months or years before they are assigned attorneys.

Hickle overruled a motion to dismiss the state, the Missouri Public Defender System and Mary Cox, director of the Office of State Public Defender, from the lawsuit.

A hearing is scheduled in June, and a three-day trial is scheduled in September.

The lawsuit was filed in Cole County on behalf of eight criminal defendants but the plaintiffs are seeking class action status.

Missouri relies almost exclusively on the Office of State Public Defender to provide indigent defense services. The lawsuit alleges chronic lack of funding and increasing caseloads have led to attorneys operating at more than double the maximum workload that would allow adequate representation.

 

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