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Case Name Church v. State of Missouri PD-MO-0003
Docket / Court 2:17-cv-04057-NKL ( W.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Case Summary
The plaintiffs filed this class action suit challenging the adequacy of the Missouri State Public Defender (MSPD) on behalf of all indigent adults and juveniles who were charged with any offense that carries the potential for incarceration as a penalty and who are eligible to be represented by MSPD. ... read more >
The plaintiffs filed this class action suit challenging the adequacy of the Missouri State Public Defender (MSPD) on behalf of all indigent adults and juveniles who were charged with any offense that carries the potential for incarceration as a penalty and who are eligible to be represented by MSPD. The complaint was originally filed in Circuit Court of Cole County but defendants removed it to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on April 7, 2017. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU, sued the State of Missouri along with its governor under 42 §U.S.C §1983, alleging a violation of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to counsel also guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution Art. I, § 18(a) and the Missouri Criminal and Juvenile Codes. The plaintiffs also alleged a violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments right to due process, also guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution Art. I, § 10. The lawsuit asked the court to declare Missouri’s public defense system unconstitutional and to order the defendants to take the steps “necessary to bring the system into compliance with federal and state law.”

The complaint alleged that the State of Missouri had failed "to provide the resources required to adequately represent poor people accused of crime in Missouri, leading to the actual and constructive denial of counsel for, and ineffective representation of, indigent defendant across the State.” Moreover, it stated that the budget for indigent defense was “shockingly inadequate" and so attorneys had little time to spend on each case which meant that poor people needlessly sat in jail for prolonged periods until their public defender has time to work on their case. The complaint stated that there was a lack of attorneys at arraignments and bond hearings, and that many appointed attorneys were unprepared to effectively advocate for a client.

The case was assigned to Judge Nanette Laughrey when filed and was also included in Missouri's Mediation and Assessment Program with Magistrate Judge Matt J. Whitworth assigned to be the mediator. On April 21, 2017 the defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and on April 28, 2017 they moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On June 6, 2017, the case was reassigned to an outside mediator.

On July 5, 2017 the court held oral argument on the defendants' motions to dismiss, and on July 24, 2017 Judge Laughrey granted the defendant's motion to dismiss in part as to one of the plaintiffs who lacked standing to sue. The court denied the motion as to the other plaintiffs. The court also dismissed the governor of Missouri as to the alleged violations of state law, but it denied the motion to dismiss on this count as to the state of Missouri. The court found that the plaintiffs plausibly alleged violations of the Missouri Criminal and Juvenile codes and that the State of Missouri did not convince the court that the legislature has established other means of enforcing the applicable statute.

As of July 31, 2017 the matter is ongoing and the motion for class certification is pending.

Abigail DeHart - 07/30/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Confidentiality
Conflict of interest
Funding
Juveniles
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) State of Missouri
Plaintiff Description All indigent adults and juveniles who are charged with any offense that carries the potential for incarceration as a penalty and who are eligible to be represented by the Missouri State Public Defender.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National (all projects)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Unknown
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  ACLU Sues Missouri Over Disastrous Public Defender System
Date: Mar. 9, 2017
By: ACLU
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
Date: 2009
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Remick v. Utah (2016)
By: ACLU of Utah
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:17−cv−04057−NKL (W.D. Mo.)
PD-MO-0003-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Petition for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief
PD-MO-0003-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/09/2017
Source: ACLU
Order [ECF# 69] (W.D. Mo.)
PD-MO-0003-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Laughrey, Nanette Kay (E.D. Mo., W.D. Mo.)
PD-MO-0003-0002 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anand, Easha (California)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Breihan, Amy Elizabeth (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-9000
Quinn, Mae C. (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Rose, Evan (California)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Rothert, Anthony [Tony] E. (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Scherzer, Aaron W. (New York)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Shahabian, Matthew R. (California)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Sills, Robert L. (New York)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Steffan, Jessie (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-9000
Wilcox, Gillian R. (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Williamson, Jason D. (New York)
PD-MO-0003-0001 | PD-MO-0003-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Elsbury, Laura E. (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-9000
Quinlan, Michael D. (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-9000
Sauer, Dean John (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-9000
Shipma, Jacqueline (Missouri)
PD-MO-0003-9000

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