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

Public Defender Response to Governor’s Comments

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 9, 2016 (COLUMBIA, MO)

Public Defender Response to Governor’s Comments

On the claim that the Public Defender left approximately $1.8 million unspent last fiscal year.

Not so. Attached is a screen shot of the Public Defender’s balance in July of 2016. It shows that a total of $0.52 remained in MSPD’s General Revenue balance sheet for FY2016. What the Governor is mistakenly referring to is not available cash but rather the appropriation authority for certain accounts, the largest of which is the Legal Defense and Defender Fund (LDDF). “Appropriation authority” is the authority granted by the legislature to spend up to a certain amount. The legislature set MSPD’s appropriation authority for LDDF at $2,983,393. That would mean that MSPD could spend up to $2.983 million if indeed that amount existed. However, MSPD only received $1.362 million in the LDDF account for FY2016. The $1.8 million is the difference between the funding authority for these accounts and the actual amount spent.

Legal Defense and Defender Fund (LDDF) This fund is separate from the appropriation used to fund MSPD’s operating expenses (e.g., personnel and expense and equipment costs). It is funded through collections of fees paid by clients. The funding that goes into this account is used to fund training and one-time purchases such as computers, copiers and office moves.

On the claim that the Governor increased Public Defender Funding by 15% since 2009.

The Governor’s statement represents all funding, including a significant amount appropriated to MSPD for purposes other than hiring attorneys to deliver legal services. For instance, the Governor includes this year’s 2% increase in salary for all state employees despite the fact that this in no way translates into more resources to fulfill MSPD’s core function. When looking at just the increase in resources that assist with delivering legal services, the actual increase is between 5-6% since 2009.

However, during this same period, MSPD’s costs (e.g., experts, depositions, etc) have increased approximately 18% and, just over the last year, the number of cases has increased 12% (from approximately 74,000 to 82,000). As a result, MSPD has less resources now than it did in 2009. In 2014, the ABA released a report that indicated MSPD needed more than 250 additional attorneys. Only ten new positions were created since 2009; however, because of increased costs, MSPD was unable to fund 30 positions during the prior fiscal year. Further, MSPD has remained 49th among the 50 states in public defense funding and the Department of Justice has stated that MSPD does not have enough attorneys to provide constitutional representation.

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

Twitter: Follow at @MoDefender1

Press_Release-8-9-16

8/5/2016 3:56 PM KL

Michael P. Mahon Selected as Recipient of the 2016 Lon O. Hocker Award

MISSOURI STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER SYSTEM
Director’s Office

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

For Immediate Release

Michael P. Mahon Selected as a Recipient of the 2016 Lon O. Hocker Award

June 15, 2016 (COLUMBIA, MO) The Missouri State Public Defender System is excited to announce that Michael P. Mahon, a trial attorney for the Missouri State Public Defender, St. Louis City trial office, is a recipient of the 2016 Lon O. Hocker Award. This award is presented annually by The Missouri Bar Foundation to young lawyers who have demonstrated exceptional proficiency in the art of trial advocacy.
Mahon attended college at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and History. He then attended St. Louis University School of Law earning his Juris Doctorate in 2009. That same year, Mahon began working for the Missouri State Public Defender in the Jackson trial office. In 2011, he transferred to the St. Louis City trial office. “I am honored to receive the Lon O. Hocker Award and would like to thank all my colleagues for their help and support, as well as my clients, family and friends,” said Mahon. Mahon will be recognized during the Missouri Bar Foundation and Public Service Awards luncheon on September 21, 2016.


For questions regarding this information, please contact:

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

MSPD Appoints District Defender of Nevada Trial Office

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
Office of the Missouri Public Defender Appoints District Defender of Nevada Trial Office

June 14, 2016 (COLUMBIA, MO)The Missouri State Public Defender System has appointed Renee GotviAgehya as District Defender of the Nevada trial office, replacing Joe Zuzul who retired May 31st after serving almost twenty-nine years with the system. GotviAgehya earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and Juris Doctorate from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, graduating in 2003, and is licensed to practice law in Kansas, Tennessee, and Missouri. In 2004, she earned her Masters of Laws in Taxation at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. GotviAgehya began working for the Missouri State Public Defender System in the Carthage trial office in 2006 and has worked in all the counties served by the Carthage trial office Jasper, Newton, McDonald, Barton, Barry and Lawrence counties.

“For the last nine years, I have been extremely proud to be part of the army of people who fight for people who would otherwise have no one in an extremely difficult time. I look forward to be able to serve at a higher level,” said GotviAgehya.

For questions regarding this information, please contact:

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