Lawsuit: 4,600 on Missouri public defender ‘wait lists’

Court Room, Gavel On Stand

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Civil rights advocates have sued to end Missouri’s use of public defender “wait lists,” a practice they contend deprives thousands of people of their right to court-appointed counsel.

A petition filed Wednesday in the Circuit Court of Cole County seeks a court order forcing Missouri to immediately stop the practice by either appointing counsel or dropping charges against criminal defendants who have not been provided a defense attorney.

It alleges that more than 4,600 individuals were on growing waiting lists for a defense attorney in Missouri, and about 600 of those are being held in pretrial detention without legal representation.