Missouri public defender system focus of hearing

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Prosecutors and public defenders testified during a hearing about whether the Missouri State Public Defender System can manage caseloads by occasionally refusing new cases.

The state public defender commission asked the Missouri Supreme Court to rule on the matter after a judge overruled a Christian County public defender’s refusal to take a case.

The hearing was held Friday in Springfield so retired Circuit Judge Miles Sweeney, who has been appointed “special master” in the case, can compile evidence for the supreme court to review.

The Springfield News-Leader reports that Douglas Copeland, a member of the public defender commission, testified that some additional state funding had not had a significant impact on caseloads.

Prosecutors criticized caseload calculations used by the public defender system and said its policies for determining indigence also need improvement.

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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