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ACLU, others sue Missouri over public defender system

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – A class-action lawsuit says the lack of funding and staff for Missouri’s public defender system has left overwhelmed public defenders unable to provide adequate defense for indigent clients.

The ACLU of Missouri and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at St. Louis filed the lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Eric Greitens and several other officials.

The lawsuit call’s Missouri’s indigent defense budget “shockingly inadequate,” paying an average of only $356 per case. It says Missouri ranks 49th out of 50 states in per capita indigent defense funding.

The plaintiffs argue clients waiting for public defenders often remain in jail for months or take pleas in cases they could win with an adequate defense.

A spokesman for Greitens did not immediately return a call seeking response to the lawsuit.

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