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Missouri public defenders may drop new clients because of overwhelming caseload


St. Louis – Public defenders in Missouri are so overworked that they may stop accepting new clients.

It's not clear what will happen to indigent clients if the system stops taking on new cases.

Cathy Kelly, deputy director of the Missouri Public Defender System, says the courts would have to decide.

Last week, the Missouri Public Defenders Commission narrowly turned down what one member dubbed the "nuclear option."

Instead, the commission voted to meet Friday to again consider a halt to new clients until caseloads decrease.

Missouri's 350 public defenders handle nearly 90,000 cases each year, an increase of 12,000 compared to six years ago.

A Senate committee earlier this month said the system was in, "crisis mode."