The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution established the right to counsel – and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states must provide counsel for indigent defendants. However, with few standards and little funding, poor defendants across the country are left to rely on overburdened and often ineffective public defenders to help them navigate a criminal justice system that is already stacked against them. Too many are denied justice because their attorneys can’t devote the necessary time or resources to their cases. The state of public defense in this country is in crisis.
We are participating in litigation to force jurisdictions to appropriately fund and support public defense.
Targeting Missouri's Inadequate and Ineffective Public Defense System
The Missouri State Public Defender’s Office employs approximately 370 attorneys to handle more than 80,000 cases each year. In 97% of their cases, Missouri public defenders fail to put in the bare minimum number of work hours required to meet the standard for constitutional representation. Every year tens of thousands of individuals go without adequate legal representation, resulting in clear obstacles to justice including unnecessary jail time and forced pleas.