Missouri’s public defender has had it after the Governor refused to provide his office with the resources his office needs, so he took advantage of a law. The state’s law allows Michael Barrett to appoint Governor Jay Nixon as the defense attorney of a poor client this week. The Missouri Governor is a Democrat who considers himself to be fiscally conservative.
Barrett blasted the Governor in a letter. “As of yet, I have not utilized this provision because it is my sincere belief that is wrong to reassign an obligation placed on the state by the 6th and 14th Amendments to private attorneys who have in no way contributed to the current crisis,” the letter reads, in part. “However, given the extraordinary circumstances that compel me to entertain any and all avenues for relief, it strikes me that I should begin with the one attorney in the state who not only created the problem, but is in a unique position to address it.”
An excerpt from the letter:
Last month, the Missouri State Public Defender—allegedly the second worst-funded public defender’s office in the country—sued the governor after he withheld $3.5 million in caseload relief funding while reportedly leaving other executive agencies largely untouched.
“This action comes even after the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice found that poor black people are being deprived of their rights in Missouri due in large part to the lack of public defenders,” wrote Barrett. “As Director of the Public Defender System, I can only hire attorneys when I have the funding to do so.”
“Therefore,” Barrett concluded, “I hereby appoint you, Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, Bar No. 29603, to enter your appearance as counsel of record in the attached case. Very truly yours, Michael Barrett.”
Missouri’s public defender agency filed a lawsuit last month over what it calls the Governor’s unconstitutional decision to withhold $3.5 million in funds for defending indigent people.
We hope Governor Nixon’s schedule is clear. Let’s just say that he has other obligations to tend to right now — in court.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty.