St. Clair County chief public defender says office is overloaded with cases

The chief public defender in St. Clair County, Cathy MacElroy, said the attorneys in her office are overloaded with cases. She’s filed a motion, telling judges
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 5:40 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The chief public defender in St. Clair County, Cathy MacElroy, said the attorneys in her office are overloaded with cases. She’s filed a motion, telling judges that the office can’t take any new cases.

“I’ve asked that they appoint private lawyers to these cases to properly represent these people because they do have the right to representation,” she said.

She said the American Bar Association recommends that attorneys in a public defender’s office be limited to 150 cases a year. But MacElroy said her attorneys handle an average of 400 cases and some as many as 450.

Attorneys in the St. Clair County Public Defenders office have the smallest starting salary of the 20 most populous counties in Illinois. And she said the per capita spending is also the lowest.

Chief Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson called the situation a crisis.

He said, “the bottom line is, the court has to ensure each defendant has competent representation.”

In Illinois, each individual county funds its local public defender’s office. Gleeson said the stakeholders in St. Clair County need to sit down and talk about the funding.

“We’re sinking here without the money,” said MacElroy.

News 4 reached out to county board chairman Mark Kern to ask if he supported an increase in funding to resolve the crisis, but he was out of town.