JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) – Missouri’s public defender agency is suing over what it calls Gov. Jay Nixon’s unconstitutional decision to withhold $3.5 million in funds for defending the indigent.
The Missouri State Public Defender system and the state’s Public Defender Commission filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Cole County.
The plaintiffs allege that Nixon has cut its budget by 8.5 percent while no general revenue was restricted from Nixon’s own budget. System’s director Michael Barrett calls the move political and accuses Nixon of trying to “weaken public defense to the point it can no longer perform its independent function within the criminal justice system.” Barrett also says Nixon is attempting “to transform our democracy into a monarchy.”
Messages left Wednesday with representatives of Nixon and the state’s attorney general were not immediately returned.