KCTV5 first told viewers about the funding crisis in Western Missouri’s Federal Public Defender’s office in May and the drastic steps the top defender took trying to fix it. But now new cuts are set to make it even more difficult for public defenders to do their jobs at the federal courthouse.
They count every piece of paper, 90 percent of their furniture is second-hand, and they carpool to visit clients. That’s reality in the penny-saving Federal Public Defender’s Office, and it’s about to get worse. “I can tell you our heads are barely above water at this point,” said Steve Moss, acting federal public defender.
Two months ago, the office’s top Federal Public Defender, Ray Conrad, retired early to stave off layoffs, but that hasn’t solved everything.
Now a new round of cuts, likely 14 to 18 percent, is coming for the next fiscal year starting October 1. “The case loads are going up, the budget is going down, so that’s a bad combination,” Moss said.
Public defenders handle 65 percent of the federal cases tried in the Western Missouri District, and right now the office is averaging 53 cases per attorney, double the load 15 years ago.