In Missouri, the legislature established a Public Defender Commission to issue regulations on the administration and operations of the state’s defender services. The rule at issue in the case is 18 CSR 10-4.010, which requires the commission to maintain a caseload’s standards protocol identifying the maximum caseload each office can be assigned without sacrificing effective representation. When an office exceeds the maximum caseload standard for three consecutive months, the director may limit the office’s availability to accept new cases.
On July 31, 2012 the Supreme Court of Missouri issued its opinion on whether or not a trial judge may appoint an indigent defendant to the Public Defender’s office when the office is certified for limited availability due to an excessive caseload capacity. Judge Waters assigned Jared Blacksher’s case to the district’s Public Defender’s Office despite the office’s unavailability pursuant to the Commission’s regulation. The Judge ignored the administrative rule believing the Sixth Amendment right to counsel left him no choice but to appoint a public defender. The Public Defenders sought relief from Judge Waters orders to represent Mr. Blacksher.
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the trial judge exceeded his authority by assigning a public defender in contravention of the rule. The Court faced three arguments in support of Judge Waters’ order. First, that the case was moot, because the defendant had accepted a plea bargain. The Court found this case to fall under the public interest exception, because the issue presented is of general public importance and capable of repetition yet evading review. Second, the regulation permitting defender offices to limit their availability is bad public policy. The Court noted that a rule must be followed unless it is invalid or inapplicable, but that neither was shown in this case. And third, public defenders are obligated under the Sixth Amendment to accept an appointment regardless of their caseload. The Court reiterated that the Sixth Amendment gives a defendant, not just the right to counsel, but effective assistance of counsel. It is the judge’s duty to ensure that the defendant has effective assistance of counsel and this right is “affirmative and prospective.” The Court found that this duty means “a judge may not appoint counsel when the judge is aware that, for whatever reason, counsel is unable to provide effective representation to a defendant. Effective, not just pro forma, representation is required by the Missouri and federal constitutions.”
The Court sympathized with the situation facing the parties and suggested judges should use their inherent authority to manage their dockets by taking a proactive role in ensuring effective representation. One suggestion was using methods such as to “triage” cases by appointing public defenders to the most serious offenses and delaying the appointment of counsel for minor offenses.
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
NACDL 2024 Annual Pass - All CLE Institute Programs
NACDL's 2024 Annual Pass gives you full access to the recordings of every CLE Institue live training seminar held in 2024! That means every CLE speech, presentation and training - along with all accompanying written materials - is yours for over 50% off! With this exclusive pass, you gain unlimited access to a treasure-trove of recent NACDL Trial Skills training that will help you win more cases!
A Defender's Guide to Federal Evidence - 2nd Edition
This brand-new 2nd Edition 2024 Guide to Federal Evidence is the only federal evidence handbook written exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. The updated 2024 Guide analyzes each Federal Rule of Evidence and outlines the main evidentiary issues that confront criminal defense lawyers. It also summarizes countless defense favorable cases and provides tips on how to avoid common evidentiary pitfalls. The 2nd Edition Guide contains multiple new and updated user-friendly flowcharts aimed at helping the criminal defense lawyer tackle evidence problems.
Sexual Assault Trial Skills Training Collection - 40+ Hours of Content!
NACDL's "Sexual Assault Trial Skills Training Collection" is the definitive aggregation of our 4 highest-rated and most current Sex Cases CLE trainings (2019, 2021, 2022 & 2023 ed.) and contains our most comprehensive and up-to-date assembly of sex cases trainings that NACDL has ever put together! Containing 49 separate trial skills trainings, thousands of pages of written materials and over 40+ hours of practical and pragmatic content, this collection guides you through the most intimidating sexual assault criminal trial topics.