According to the newspaper, the public defenders maintain that they "are so overworked and underfinanced that they have begun to reject new cases assigned to them late in the month, when, they say, their workloads are already beyond capacity."
Jo-Ann Wallace, president and chief executive of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, told The Times:
This has been a problem in good economic times, and now it's only worse. What you have is a situation where the eligible pool of clients is increasing, crime rates are potentially increasing, while the resources often for public defenders are going down.
The Supreme Court's 1963 landmark Gideon v. Wainwright decision held that that the Sixth Amendment provides a fundamental right to counsel for defendants, including those unable to afford legal representation. Writing for the majority in Gideon, Justice Hugo Black said the Sixth Amendment means that "in federal courts, counsel must be provided for defendants unable to employ counsel unless that right is completely and intelligently waived."
Missouri is not alone in underfunding indigent systems. Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia have all seen recent cuts in funding for indigent defense services.
At the 2010 ACS National Convention, Wallace participated in a panel discussion on how the federal government can improve indigent defense. Following the panel discussion, Wallace spoke with ACSblog about the need for strengthening indigent defense services. Here interview is available here or by clicking on the picture. Recently ACS published an Issue Brief by Catholic University law school professor Cara H. Drinan proposing legislative measures for reforming and bolstering indigent defense. Her Issue Brief is available here. Additionally Professor Erica J. Hashimoto recently authored an ACS Issue Brief, "Assessing the Indigent Defense System," and Boston attorney James M. Doyle wrote and Issue Brief on with examining shortfalls in the criminal indigent defense system.