MSPD News Releases
Public Defender Response to Department of Justice Report Finding Significant Constitutional Violations of Juvenile Rights in St. Louis County
July 31, 2015 (Columbia, MO) – Today the United States Department of Justice released a report after a lengthy investigation regarding the treatment of juveniles in St. Louis County who are facing incarceration. The report finds that St. Louis County Family Court has violated the children’s rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, specifically:
- St. Louis County Family Court fails to provide adequate representation for children in delinquency proceedings.
“This is now the fourth data backed report in just the past few months finding that Missouri’s criminal justice system is racially biased and the second data driven report that shows the state has failed to provide enough public defenders to adequately provide legal representation to poor people facing incarceration.”
- St. Louis County Family Court maintains an organizational structure that is rife with conflicts of interest, is contrary to separation of powers principles and that deprives children of adequate due process.
“It sickens me that the most vulnerable among us, poor minority children, go without the most basic protections under the Constitution while the Governor and Legislature refuse to fund Public Defender budget requests for juvenile advocacy offices and caseload relief.”
- St. Louis County Family Court fails to provide equal protection under law for accused African-American children at key decision points within the system.
“While crime and the prison population has continued to increase, the Public Defender System has not received a single new lawyer since 2010. Given these findings and a host of others, I call on the Governor and Legislature to advance a supplemental Public Defender budget that allows the state to meet its minimum obligation under the Bill of Rights.”
“Further, the report correctly points out that more Public Defender resources are needed. Unfortunately, the lack of resources is not limited to St. Louis County – it is a statewide issue. Despite the Herculean efforts of Assistant Public Defenders in St. Louis County who work tirelessly on behalf of their clients, it is impossible to provide adequate representation for every single client given the exorbitant caseloads.”
A copy of the report can be accessed at: http://www.stltoday.com/justice-department-report-on-st-louis-county-family-court/pdf_3c1a9e4f-a76f-5ee0-ba4e-dff3df89b0ea.html?mobile_touch=true
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: www.publicdefender.mo.gov.
For questions regarding this information, please contact:
Director and Public Information Officer