Dear Members of The Missouri Bar:
The Missouri Bar is continuing its efforts to deal with the indigent criminal defense issue. A month ago, I asked four members of the Board of Governors to meet and make recommendations about what the Board could do to help lawyers deal with criminal defense appointments. The Board group - Judge Charles Curless, Joel Elmer (Public Defender), J.B. Lasater (St. Louis County Prosecutor's office) and Ray Williams (private counsel) - made four recommendations:
Here is my report on the status of those four recommendations.
First, the Bar is in the process of gathering criminal defense practice resources, including educational programs and forms, and creating a website to feature all resources in one place. To access the forms and programs that are currently listed on the site, visit http://www.mobar.org/members/helping-lawyers/index.aspx.
Second, a proposed rule is nearing completion and will be sent to the Missouri Supreme Court committee as soon as possible.
Third, we do not have a resolution to the insurance issues, yet. The State Legal Expense Fund does not cover court-appointed private attorneys, and the legislature may have to act to authorize the Attorney General's office to issue a rule that would provide coverage. In addition, I am meeting with The Bar Plan in a couple of weeks concerning options. I have met with The Bar Plan once and asked them to develop some alternatives. Once in hand, I will report again.
Fourth, and last, this week I formed a task force to develop legislation to deal with this issue and provide a longer term solution. Ensuring that adequate resources exist to provide indigent criminal defense has been an issue since I started practicing law 30 years ago. It is time to leave the world a better place than we found it. Cat Kelly (Director, Missouri State Public Defender), Eric Zahnd (President, Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys), Ray Williams (Board of Governors/private counsel), Jeff Eastman (President, Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) and Judge Charles Atwell will soon meet. Their task is to propose legislation, hopefully before the session starts in January, to deal with these issues. Theirs is a challenging task, but there is enough intellect there to solve most any problem.
I will report to you as the matter develops. As always, I welcome your input at (816) 229-9111, (816) 591-0696 or Pat@Starkelawoffices.com.
Patrick B. Starke