A new American Bar Association study says Missouri's publicly funded criminal defense lawyers are so overworked that it could raise constitutional issues.
The Kansas City Star reports the state's 376 attorneys represent more than 98 percent of poor defendants charged in Missouri with state crimes.
The news that the public defenders are overworked is not new. Consultants have warned for the years that Missouri was operating a "constitutionally inadequate" public defender system.
ABA president William Hubbard says his organization believes it's time to stop studying the problem and start solving it.
The study found that public defenders are spending far fewer hours preparing cases than is necessary to provide their clients with "reasonably effective" representation.