(AP) — A Missouri judge says the wait time for some poor defendants to get legal help is unconstitutional.
Circuit Judge Will Hickle in an order said a group of poor defendants likely will succeed in a class-action lawsuit against the state.
The defendants’ attorneys say some waited in jail for months before getting public defenders. Missouri public defenders have been overwhelmed for years, prompting a waiting list for state-paid legal help. But Director Mary Fox says she’s hopeful state lawmakers will increase the office’s budget to reduce wait times.
Hickle is delaying a final ruling to give lawmakers time to act.