JENNIFER BUKOWSKY DONATES $300,000 TO PROVIDE ATTORNEYS FOR THE POOR IN BOONE COUNTY CRIMINAL CASES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DECEMBER 11, 2020

JENNIFER BUKOWSKY DONATES $300,000 TO PROVIDE ATTORNEYS FOR THE POOR IN BOONE COUNTY CRIMINAL CASES

Jennifer Bukowsky, attorney and founder of Bukowsky Law Firm, LLC, has donated $300,000 to provide attorneys for the poor in Boone County. Bukowsky’s donation to Boone County will allow attorneys to be assigned in almost five hundred (500) pending criminal cases. The defendants in those cases have been found to be eligible for legal representation at the state’s expense, but placed on a waitlist by the Missouri State Public Defender (MSPD). MSPD, the state entity authorized to provide representation to the poor accused of state crimes, has been unable to provide attorneys for the defendants on waitlist cases because of a case overload.

Currently, there are over 650 cases pending on the Boone County waitlist and approximately 2,000 cases pending on waitlists in twenty-three other Missouri counties. Some defendants on the Boone County waitlist have waited for an attorney since June, 2018, some of whom have appeared in court unrepresented for bond hearings and status conferences. Bukowsky’s donation will allow the defendants to be assigned an attorney who will represent them in their criminal case. Bukowsky, a criminal defense attorney, has herself handled over 1,400 criminal cases in the course of her career, including as an Assistant Public Defender in the MSPD Columbia Trial Office.

MSPD Director, Mary Fox, expressed her gratitude for the donation. “This donation will provide these eligible applicants for legal services with the lawyer to which they are constitutionally entitled. I am grateful for this generous donation from Jennifer. As a former public defender Jennifer understands the importance of criminal defendants not only having an attorney, but having an attorney who has the necessary time to provide each client competent representation. This donation will assist these applicants, as well as the current clients of MSPD attorneys in Boone County.”

“This Court fervently desires defendants who are indigent and accused of a crime to be represented by counsel,” said 13TH Judicial Circuit Presiding Judge Kevin Crane. “Locally we have been trying alternative methods to ensure the defendants on the waitlist have access to an attorney. We are grateful for Ms. Bukowsky’s generous donation to pay for counsel for these defendants.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:

MARY FOX, MSPD DIRECTOR, AT 573-777-9977, EXT 201
MARY EPPING, 13TH CIRCUIT COURT ADMINISTRATOR, AT 573-886-4058

NAPD Recommendations for the Biden Administration

Official Statement – For Immediate Release

November 12, 2020 (COLUMBIA, MO)  Provided is a link to the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) Recommendations for the Biden Administration.  The Missouri State Public Defender system stands with NAPD and other defender communities in reforming the public defense systems throughout our country.

Link:  NAPD Recommendations to the Biden Administration

__________________________________________________

For questions regarding this information, please contact:

Mary Fox, Director
Missouri Public Defender System
Office:  (573) 777-9977, ext. 201
Cell:  (314) 708-3819 cell
Email: Mary.Fox@mspd.mo.gov

Official Statement – For Immediate Release from Director Fox – June 8, 2020

MISSOURI STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER SYSTEM
Director’s Office
Woodrail Centre
1000 West Nifong, Building 7, Suite 100
Columbia, Missouri  65203
Telephone: 573-526-5212   Fax: 573-777-9975

Official Statement – For Immediate Release

June 8, 2020 (COLUMBIA, MO)  The Missouri State Public Defender system stands with our greater defender communities and bar associations throughout the United States as the public defense community marches today in St. Louis and Kansas City for Black lives lost and against the deeply rooted inequities in the criminal legal system.  Systemic racism and police brutality have never had a place in any part of our society, including our criminal legal system.  And yet here we are again.  This cannot continue.  We watched in horror the killing of George Floyd, but the presence of a video should not be what changes us.

We condemn state sanctioned violence against the Black community and all communities of color. We believe, and always have believed, that Black Lives Matter.  We have and will work tirelessly to have our client’s voices heard, valued, respected and believed in Missouri Courts. We commit to do more. We commit to listen to people of color and believe their experiences. We commit to teach and learn about how racism impacts our community, our courts, and our profession and to take action against it.

Mr. Floyd’s death proves that we have much work to do as a nation, as a public defender agency, and individually to right the wrongs of 400 years of oppression of Black people in this country.  In this moment, we again hear you, stand with you, and join you and the rest of our country in this fight for equality and justice.

For questions regarding this information, please contact:

Mary Fox, Director
Missouri Public Defender System
Phone: 573-508–7722
Email: Mary.Fox@mspd.mo.gov

Mary Fox To Be Next State Public Defender

Public Defender Commission – Press Release
MARY FOX TO BE NEXT STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER
January 9, 2020

Mary FoxThe Missouri Public Defender Commission has selected Mary Fox of St. Louis, Missouri, to serve as the next director of the Missouri State Public Defender System. Fox will take office on January 10, 2020, succeeding Michael Barrett, who resigned effective November 15, 2019, to relocate to New York.

Fox has served as the District Defender for the St. Louis City Trial Office since 2007. Fox was an Assistant Public Defender in the Clayton and St. Louis City Trial offices from 1981 until 1987.

In the intervening twenty years Fox served as the Traffic Commissioner for St. Louis County and practiced family and juvenile law. Fox is a 1976 graduate of St. Louis University with a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Affairs and a 1980 graduate of St. Louis University School of Law.
Fox is a lifelong resident of University City where she and her husband Bob raised their four children, Rob, Tom, Kathleen, and Patrick.


For questions regarding this information, please contact:
Mary Fox
Director
573-526-5212
Mary.Fox@mspd.mo.gov

Greg Mermelstein Named Interim State Public Defender

Press Release – For Immediate Release

Greg Mermelstein Named Interim State Public Defender

November 18, 2019 (COLUMBIA, MO) — The State Public Defender Commission has named Greg Memelstein interim director of Missouri’s public defender system.

Mermelstein replaces former director Michael Barrett, who resigned to take a new job in New York.  Mermelstein will serve until a permanent replacement is selected.

“The legislature wisely made the public defender an independent department of state government in order to protect the rights and liberty of people accused of crimes,” Mermelstein said.

“Whether it’s fighting wrongful convictions or opposing illegal fees imposed on poor people, public defenders stop government overreach and uphold everyone’s constitutional rights,” Mermelstein said.  “I’ll seek to ensure that work continues.”

Mermelstein has been with the public defender system since 1990.  He most recently served as deputy director and general counsel.

For questions regarding this information, please contact:

Greg Mermelstein, Interim Director
Missouri Public Defender System
Phone: 573-526-5212
Email: Greg.Mermelstein@mspd.mo.gov

Missouri State Public Defender Announces Return of Veteran Attorneys

MISSOURI STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER SYSTEM Director’s Office

Woodrail Centre 1000 West Nifong, Building 7, Suite 100
Columbia, Missouri 65203
Telephone: 573-526-5212 Fax: 573-777-9975

Press Release – For Immediate Release

Missouri State Public Defender Announces Return of Veteran Attorneys

July 31, 2018 (COLUMBIA, MO)—The Missouri State Public Defender System (MSPD) has appointed Kathryn Benson as District Defender and George Batek as a Senior Public Defender in the Fulton trial office, which covers Callaway, Audrain and Montgomery Counties. These long serving attorneys will be returning to the Missouri State Public Defender System after 14 years operating Batek & Benson, a successful law practice in Columbia.

Kathryn Benson grew up in Columbia, Missouri. She attended the University of Missouri—Columbia for both her undergraduate degree and law school. Benson began as a clerk practicing law at the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, before working as an Assistant Public Defender, which she did for close to 10 years. Benson commented, “Throughout my career I have focused on criminal defense, and for a large part of it, indigent criminal defense. I am dedicated to continuing the pursuit of justice in this area.”

George Batek graduated from the University of Missouri Law School and began his legal career as a Public Defender, first in the Farmington office and later in both the Columbia and Fulton offices. After more than 10 years with MSPD, he went into private practice with Benson. Batek was awarded the 2016 Outstanding Service Award by the Boone County Bar Association. On returning Batek stated, “My family runs back over 100+ years in Callaway County so I guess I am coming home.”

“I could not be more excited to have these two veteran, well respected attorneys rejoin the public defender system,” said Michael Barrett, Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System.

For questions regarding this information, please contact:

Michael Barrett, Director
Missouri Public Defender System
Phone: 573-526-5212
Email: Michael.Barrett@mspd.mo.gov

Press Release PD Week 3-13-2017

MISSOURI STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER SYSTEM
Director’s Office

Woodrail Centre
1000 West Nifong, Building 7, Suite 100
Columbia, Missouri 65203
Telephone: 573-526-5212  Fax: 573-777-9975

Press Release – For Immediate Release

Public Defender Week – March 13-18, 2017

March 13, 2017 (COLUMBIA, MO)—March 13-18 is Public Defender week. It commemorates the 54th Anniversary of the landmark decision of Gideon v. Wainwright.

Clarence Earl Gideon was a Missourian, from Hannibal, with an eighth-grade education, who was charged with breaking and entering in the State of Florida. At trial, Gideon appeared without an attorney. He asked the judge to appoint counsel because he could not afford an attorney. The trial judge denied Gideon’s request because Florida law only permitted appointment of counsel for poor defendants charged with capital offenses. At trial, Gideon represented himself – he made an opening statement, cross-examined the prosecution’s witnesses, and presented witnesses in his own defense, all while maintaining his innocence. The jury found Gideon guilty and he was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Gideon filed a handwritten petition in the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court agreed to hear the case to resolve the question of whether the right to counsel guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution applies to defendants in state court.  The Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of counsel is a fundamental right essential to a fair trial and, as such, applies to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Despite this being one of the few mandates required of state government, Missouri continues to deny this fundamental right to poor Missourians by underfunding indigent defense to such an extent that public defenders have so many cases that it is impossible to provide adequate legal representation for each individual defendant. As a result, people needlessly plead guilty to crimes that they do not commit. Just last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a class action against the state for depriving poor Missourians of this constitutional right. According to the ACLU’s press release: “By failing to fix its chronically defective public defense system, Missouri is robbing people of their Sixth Amendment right to counsel. As a result, Missourians accused of crimes often languish in jail for months or plead guilty, despite having a winnable case, just to get out of jail and avoid losing their jobs, their homes, and more time with their families.”

Missouri’s public defenders are committed and skilled. They handle more than 80,000 cases annually, with an average caseload of between 100 – 200 cases at any one time. They are drastically underpaid. Despite the fact that many of our attorneys carry law school debt that exceeds $100,000, starting salary for a public defender is around $39,000 and the maximum that someone can earn as an assistant public defender is about $63,000. “Despite the impossible task which has been placed upon them, public defenders fight daily so that a poor person receives a fair shot in an unfair criminal justice system,” said Michael Barrett, Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System. “They fight to ensure that a poor person receives due process before they are deprived of the one thing they have in this world, their liberty.”

For questions regarding this information, please contact:

Michael Barrett, Director
Missouri Public Defender System
Phone: 573-526-5212
Email: Michael.Barrett@mspd.mo.gov

Teitelman Release

MISSOURI STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER SYSTEM
Director’s Office

Woodrail Centre
1000 West Nifong, Building 7, Suite 100
Columbia, Missouri 65203
Telephone: 573-526-5212 Fax: 573-777-9975

Official Statement – For Immediate Release

November 29, 2016 (COLUMBIA, MO)

Death of Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard B. Teitelman

This statement is being released in response to the reported passing of Missouri Supreme Court Judge Richard B. Teitelman.

“Today Missouri lost a great champion for the poor and marginalized. We pause to honor his service, not just as an accomplished jurist of the State’s highest court, but as a humble and committed public servant,” said Michael Barrett, Director of the Missouri State Public Defender.

The Missouri State Public Defender provides legal representation throughout the state to indigent clients in criminal cases. To learn more about the Missouri State Public Defender, visit: http://publicdefender.mo.gov.


For questions regarding this information, please contact:

Michael Barrett Director
Telephone: 573-777-9977
Email: michael.barrett@mspd.mo.gov

Public Defender Response to Judge’s Ruling Regarding Governor’s Appointment

MISSOURI STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER SYSTEM
Director’s Office

Woodrail Centre
1000 West Nifong, Building 7, Suite 100
Columbia, Missouri 65203
Telephone: 573-526-5212 Fax: 573-777-9975

Official Statement – For Immediate Release

August 26, 2016(COLUMBIA, MO)

Public Defender Response to Judge’s Ruling Regarding Governor’s Appointment

We are disappointed, but not surprised. We have long been at the bottom nationwide in public defense funding. This will not come easy, but we will continue until equal justice becomes a reality in Missouri – when the poor and marginalized get a fair shot in our criminal justice system, and when we no longer make national headlines for all the wrong reasons: denying counsel to poor children; record incarceration rates; debtors’ prisons. The Missouri Public Defender’s Office will continue to fight so that the Bill of Rights is guaranteed to everyone.

For questions regarding this information, please contact:

Michael Barrett, Director
Missouri Public Defender System
Phone: 573-526-5212
Email: Michael.Barrett@mspd.mo.gov

Twitter: Follow at @MoDefender1

 

Public Defender Response to Governor’s Appointment of New Commissioners

MISSOURI STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER SYSTEM
Director’s Office

Woodrail Centre
1000 West Nifong, Building 7, Suite 100
Columbia, Missouri 65203
Telephone: 573-526-5212  Fax: 573-777-9975

Official Statement – For Immediate Release

August 26, 2016 (COLUMBIA, MO)

New Public Defender Commissioners

This statement is being released in response to the Governor’s appointment of three new members to the Public Defender Commission. If confirmed, this will be the first time in seven years that the Commission will be operating at full capacity. Until just two years ago, the Public Defender Commission had only two members.

“Missouri’s Public Defender System was not a high priority of the Governor’s office for quite some time. We are hoping that Governor Nixon’s renewed interest in the system, as illustrated by finally making these three appointments, will not end here,” said Riley Bock, Chair of the Public Defender Commission.

“We welcome the three new members to the Commission: Oliver Glenn Boyer, of Crystal City; Thomas W. Neer, of Defiance; and James J. Sievers, of Des Peres,” said Bock. “This also results in the end of Commissioner Doug Copeland’s service on the commission. Doug was our longest serving member, and, of course, we will miss his experience.”

Michael Barrett, Director of MSPD added: “We welcome new perspectives as we continue efforts to make sure that the right to counsel remains guaranteed to indigent persons who are charged with a criminal offense.”

The other members of the commission are Charles Jackson, of Fulton; Craig Chval, of Columbia; and Christa Hogan, of Springfield.

Missouri Public Defender Commission
Phone: 573-526-5212