The state Public Defender System is on track to have its largest staffing increase since 1989. The Missouri Legislature passed a state budget this year that includes hiring a total of 53 new public defenders statewide. The Missouri Public Defender System has already filled 32 of those positions.
The System has been understaffed and overwhelmed for years. The new attorneys are for 31 of the 33 trial offices throughout the state, which cover 113 counties. The only offices not getting extra attorneys are in St. Louis and Kansas City because Director Mary Fox says they have historically been staffed better and the number of charges filed there have declined over the years.