Public Defense

Filed - March 9, 2017

Church et al v. State of Missouri


The MacArthur Justice Center, ACLU of Missouri, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Missouri over its unconstitutional system of public defense.

The state’s public defenders do not have the time or resources to provide adequate legal representation to their indigent clients. For example, public defenders are unable to consult with their clients about possible witnesses, exculpatory evidence, plea negotiations, or trial strategy. The suit asks that the court force the state to improve the public defender system and end its violations of the Sixth Amendment. The case is currently set for trial in October 2018.

Each year, the Missouri State Public Defender office has more than 80,000 cases. It employs approximately 370 attorneys.

In 97% of their cases, Missouri public defenders fail to reach the minimum number of work hours required for constitutional representation, according to analysis by the American Bar Association and lawyers across the state.