Thursday, May 8, 2014

Public Defenders for The New York Times

In January I traveled to Missouri and spent a day shadowing the Public Defenders office of the St. Louis County Justice Department. Most public defense lawyers are notoriously overworked and underpaid in relation to their colleagues in the private sector. Those that I met in St. Louis were no exception. Already averaging around 10 different hearings per day, public defenders in St. Louis are worried they don't have the proper time and resources to devote to each case.

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Case files belonging to Public Defender Warren Popp are pictured before a probation hearing in the court room of the Hon. Michael T. Jamison of the 21st Judicial Circuit Court at the the St. Louis County Court Building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Public defenders in St. Louis are struggling to keep up with mounting case loads. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


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The St. Louis County Court Building is pictured in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

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Public Defender Matt Vigil sits in his office before his first of many hearings across the street at the the St. Louis County Court Building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

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A whiteboard details the locations of the understaffed and overworked Public Defenders at the the St. Louis County Department-Justice Services building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. 

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Public Defender Colleen Polak rides an elevator to meet with a client in detention at the St. Louis County Jail in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Public defenders take a substantial pay cut in comparison with lawyers who work for private firms. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

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Public Defender Colleen Polak goes over case details with a client before a hearing at the St. Louis County Court Building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

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Public Defender Colleen Polak reviews case notes with Washington University Law School legal intern Michael Derrick in the court room of the Hon. Michael T. Jamison of the 21st Judicial Circuit Court at the the St. Louis County Court Building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

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Public Defender Colleen Polak (Middle) speaks with a client after appearing before the Hon. Michael T. Jamison of the 21st Judicial Circuit Court during a probation hearing at the the St. Louis County Court Building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014 Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

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Public Defender Colleen Polak (Middle) argues a case before the Hon. Michael T. Jamison of the 21st Judicial Circuit Court during a probation hearing at the the St. Louis County Court Building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

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Public Defender Colleen Polak laughs after successfully arguing for a re-trial for a client before the Hon. Michael T. Jamison of the 21st Judicial Circuit Court during a probation hearing at the the St. Louis County Court Building in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.

Thanks for looking!


**Photos copyright Luke Sharrett and The New York Times**

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