After hearing three hours of arguments from Christian County assistant prosecutors Donovan Dobbs and Benjamin Miller and Daniel Gralike from the Public Defenders office in Jefferson City, associate circuit court Judge John Waters upheld a ruling he made last month that the Public Defenders office must represent a Sparta man charged with burglary over the PD's office objection.
Late last month the Missouri Public Defenders office in Springfield stopped taking new cases until August 2nd citing an overwhelming caseload. The Springfield Public Defenders office represents clients who can't afford representation in Greene, Christian and Taney counties.
Jared Blacksher was charged in late July with two counts of second-degree burglary for an alleged crime in April. Blacksher hired a private attorney to represent him after he was charged with forgery in April.
Christian County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Donovan Dobbs
In December of last year, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that, under the current statutory scheme, Missouri’s Public Defenders could not manage their case load by taking on new felony cases over misdemeanor offenses. The closing rule applies if an office exceeds maximum caseload standards for three consecutive months.
In an interview with the Ozarks Sentinel last month, Cat Kelly, deputy director of the Missouri Public Defender's office said each individual judge would have to decide if they are going to hold cases that are filed after the closing date for the public defenders office. "If they want to create a waiting list, they can do that, but the court will have to make that decision and it will probably mean that we will close to new cases earlier in the month. We won't be surprised if this ends up in front of the state Supreme Court again."
And it appears that is exactly where this case, that could help decide a statewide resolution that has pitted prosecutors against public defenders, is headed.
Christian County chief assistant prosecutor Donovan Dobbs says, "They're (public defenders) willing to work with us if we do it their way. Judge Waters followed the law and made the right decision. It's abundantly clear they have to do it...it's the law, and it's black and white."
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