Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon won’t be defending anyone.
Michael Barrett, the state’s public defender, earlier this month tried to assign the governor a case, citing an overburdened system and budget cuts from the state. Though Barrett argued he had the authority to do so under Missouri law, a Cole County judge on Thursday disagreed.
“From the outset, it was clear that the executive director of the Office of Public Defender did not have the legal authority to appoint private counsel,” Nixon said in a statement. “It is my hope that following today’s order denying this patently unlawful action, the Office of Public Defender will now return its attention to the job it has to do, and the resources already available with which to do it.”
He went on to call what Barrett did a “publicity stunt.”
Nixon has said the public defender’s budget has increased in recent years.
“Only 10 new positions were created since 2009; however, because of increased costs, MSPD was unable to fund 30 positions during the prior fiscal year,” Barrett wrote in a statement released Aug. 9.
Reached Thursday, a spokeswoman in Barrett’s office said the public defender was not in a position to comment on the judge’s ruling.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.