Michael Barrett, Missouri Public Defender, Joins NAPD Steering Committee
Tell the public defense community something about yourself? I started as a public defender in Albany County, New York. I left to work for Governor Eliot Spitzer and then stayed on with Governor David Paterson. When my wife got offered her dream job as the Executive Director of the Missouri Bar, my stipulation for moving to Missouri was that I would be a stay-at-home Dad. The rest is history.
Tell the community something about your organization? We are a statewide public defender organization with about 600 employees (370 of whom are attorneys). We handle about 80,000 cases a year. I am appointed to a four year term by a Commission of seven individuals whom are all appointed by the Governor.
What are the major problems in public defense today? Perception. We can’t get anywhere politically because our messaging kind of stinks. The 2nd Amendment folks have convinced everyone that it is unAmerican if they don’t support the unregulated ownership of automatic weapons, but somehow an adequate defense before someone’s liberty is taken from them is unpopular in a country where government is generally not trusted. We need to do much better here.
How useful has NAPD been for you and your organization? We don’t have time to reinvent the wheel. I have had very few, if any, novel ideas. Chances are, it’s been done before. Check with NAPD.
What would you like NAPD to focus on in 2018? Studies and reports are good, but it’s time to start building relationships and campaigns with organizations that want to right-size the prison population and get criminal justice reform.