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Missouri Public Defender System 'Headed For Disaster'

Kansas City, MO – A recently-released study says Missouri's Public Defender system is "heading for disaster."

The study finds Missouri is last in per capita expenditure compared to other state public defender systems. Researchers also say Missouri's public defenders often have twice as many cases as the maximum recommended caseload.

Robert Spangenberg heads up the group that did the study. He says the state's system has been seeking relief for years.

Spangenberg: "They have been working diligently for six or seven or eight years going to the Legislature each year, going to the court, going to the executive, and there's no one home."

He says the problems of low salaries and heavy caseloads have worsened since the Spangenberg Group did a study in 1993 and another in 2005.

The Missouri Public Commission put a rule in effect last year allowing it to deny certain cases when caseloads grow too heavy. The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week in two cases challenging that rule.

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