To protest budget cuts, Missouri's top public defender is making the governor personally take a case

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) is in a seven-year spat with his state's public defenders, a fight that began — per the defenders' account — when Nixon vetoed a funding bill that was supposed to offer relief to the wildly overworked lawyers. Since then, Nixon has continued to dramatically cut budget packages for indigent defense, leaving public defense attorneys in Missouri so overloaded with cases that they can spend only 20 percent of the recommended hours on the average case.

This week, the director of the Public Defender's office, Michael Barrett, decided to supplement his exhausted team with some outside help. And so, pursuant to state law, he ordered Gov. Nixon, a practicing attorney, to personally represent a defendant in court. He notified Nixon in a letter released Tuesday and circulated on social media Wednesday.

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