Jay Nixon

Missouri governor assigned to be public defender on case

The head of Missouri's public defender system said he is appointing Gov. Jay Nixon to handle a case in protest of withheld funding.

Michael Barrett, the director of Missouri's Public Defender System, wrote in a letter this week that his office lacks the funding to hire enough public defenders for people who can't afford representation. The letter to Nixon was dated Tuesday and posted Wednesday on the office's website.

Barrett said state law allows him to appoint any Missouri attorney to secure representation for indigent clients. He said he's starting with Nixon, a former attorney general.

"Given the extraordinary circumstances that compel me to entertain any and...