Governor Who Cut Funds for Public Defenders Might Be Forced to Be One

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  • Missouri has had a tough time these past few years. Between the unrest in and around Ferguson, the various budget crises, and people using Pokémon Go to commit armed robbery, the governorship of Jay Nixon (D) has been pretty rough for the Show Me State. But thanks to a brilliant bit of legal wrangling, Missourians might be getting their equivalent of the Cersei Lannister Walk of Shame from the embattled Governor.

    Michael Barrett, Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System, sent Governor Nixon a letter (available in full here) this week in which he outlines Nixon’s repeated funding cuts of the MSPD despite increased case load and “escalating sentiment that the poor and disenfranchised do not receive a fair shake in Missouri’s criminal justice system.” According to Barrett’s letter, the defense system is now “indigent.” Since Barrett “can only hire attorneys when [he has] the funding to do so,” and that funding has been restricted, Barrett must turn to an obscure piece of Missouri state law.

    That law, Section 600.042.5 of the Missouri constitution, “gives the Director of the Public Defender System the authority to ‘[d]elegate the legal representation of any person to any member of the state bar of Missouri.'” In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Barrett said it’s “not fair to go after private attorneys who are trying to pay the rent when they had nothing to do with contributing to this.” So which member of the state bar does Barrett assign a case to? Jay Nixon himself.

    That’s right: the same man who made it so tough on public defenders that, according to the Post-Dispatch, each PD has to handle “125 to more than 200 cases at a time,” might have to have a taste of the public defender life.

    Nixon has yet to respond to the letter, and it is not currently known what he could do to get out of the task. But it’s safe to say he’ll probably do everything in his considerable power to avoid having to do such a horrible job. How horrible is PD work? We’ll let John Oliver explain.

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  • What do you think? Will sweet justice be served, or will Nixon get out of this? Let us know in the comments below or @WhatsTrending on Twitter!