In what it describes as a “blueprint for national reform,” the American Bar Association Thursday released a detailed study of the caseloads and hours worked by Missouri public defenders—concluding that it documents “how excessive caseloads deny indigent criminal defendants the constitutional right to effective counsel.”
“The Missouri Project: A Study of the Missouri Public Defender System and Attorney Workload Standards” focused on a 25-week period between March and August 2013. Researchers assessing the mandatory daily reports filed by the system’s 375 lawyers found that, for the most serious felonies except homicides, public defenders spent about nine hours per case, compared to the recommended 47 hours.
In a statement announcing the study’s release, ABA President James R. Silkenat said the project “provides clear, empirical evidence about the crisis in public defense systems that has been building for many years. Missouri is not alone in this crisis. All across the country, Americans are being denied their constitutional right to adequate counsel. The blueprint that accompanies the Missouri Project report will help jurisdictions develop sound evidence of the crushing workloads that keep public defenders from duly representing clients.”