Broke and Broken: Can We Fix Our State Indigent Defense Systems?
Missouri Law Review Symposium 2010 -- February 26, 2010


8:15 a.m.


Dean Larry Dessem of the University of Missouri School of Law.

8:30 a.m.

Panel 1: Boots on the Ground: The Ethical and Professional Battles of Public Defenders

This panel will bring together practicing public defenders, scholars and judges [and/or academics] to discuss a public defender's ethical and professional duties to his or her clients in light of extremely demanding caseloads. The panel will consider a number of related questions, for example: Can a public defender with an impossible workload refuse to accept additional cases in order to avoid committing malpractice? Should public defenders be held to the same professional standard of care as privately employed attorneys? What are the ethical responsibilities of supervising lawyers and public defender administrators who recognize that their lawyers cannot provide quality representation in the face of crushing caseloads?


  • Stephen F. Hanlon '66, Partner & Director of the Community Service Team, Holland & Knight, LLP
  • Peter A. Joy, Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Phyllis E. Mann, Director of the National Defender Leadership Institute, National Legal Aid and Defender Association


  • Norman Lefstein, Professor of Law & Dean Emeritus, Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis

10:15 a.m.

Earl F. Nelson Lecture

Presented by Stephen B. Bright

1:00 p.m.

Panel 2: Anatomy of a Public Defender System

This panel will discuss the organization and administration of a public defender system. While states have experimented with various configurations, some have produced more successful outcomes than others. Individuals holding leadership positions in public defender systems as well as state legislators must consider how to most effectively organize the system and deliver services as cost-effectively as possible. In doing so, several questions arise: Should reforms focus more on reducing caseloads or increasing pay? Should systems focus on long-term attorney retention, or shift toward a limited term model as is currently employed for judicial clerkships? Should management of a state public defender system lie in the state executive branch or an independent commission? What is the best model for delivering indigent defense services in a world of limited resources?


  • Ronald F. Wright, Professor of Law & Associate Dean, Wake Forest University
  • Adele Bernhard, Associate Professor of Law, Pace University
  • Sean O'Brien, Associate Professor of Law, University of Missouri - Kansas City
  • Cat Kelly, Deputy Director for Training and Communications, Missouri State Public Defender


  • Richard Rosen, Professor of Law, University of North Carolina

3:15 p.m.

Panel 3: Patching the System: The Next Steps in Reform

In this panel, academics, judges, administrators and practitioners will discuss the process for moving forward in implementing changes to the indigent defense system. While legislatures are responsible for appropriating government dollars, much debate has centered on what judges can or should do when the legislature refuses or is unable to act. Important legal questions arise in this context: Can state or federal courts order a state legislature to adequately fund public defender systems? Can private attorneys be compelled to take on cases by order of a court? How do we resolve conflicts when prosecutorial decisions made by of the executive branch in certain high profile criminal cases interfere with legislative decisions regarding allocation of state funding or the judicial branch's ability to ensure justice in hundreds of other cases?


  • Wayne A. Logan, Professor of Law & Associate Dean, Florida State University
  • Darryl K. Brown, Professor of Law, University of Virginia
  • Robert P. Mosteller, Professor of Law, University of North Carolina
  • Roscoe C. Howard, Jr., Partner, Andrews Kurth, LLP


  • Barbara E. Bergman, Professor of Law & Associate Dean, University of New Mexico