Missouri’s chief public defender, Michael Barrett, has assigned sitting Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon to work as a public defender after Nixon’s administration failed to secure adequate funding and resources to the state’s overburdened public defenders.
Barrett used a loophole in the law that allows him to assign any case to a member of the State Bar. From Gawker.
“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,” reads the letter Barrett sent Nixon dated Tuesday. “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.”
Missouri’s public defender office is allegedly the second worst funded public defender’s office in the U.S. Last month, Barrett’s office filed a lawsuit against the state after the governor withheld $3.5 million in caseload relief funding. Meanwhile, the majority of other state-funded agencies were reportedly left 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.”
Here’s a video featuring Barrett talking about his department’s dire funding problems.
Featured image via YouTube.