Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has come out on top in a legal dispute over his decision to withhold $3.5 million for the state’s public defender system.
The Missouri State Public Defender System sued Nixon in July. The issue was whether Nixon had the authority to cut the system’s budget by 8.5 percent.
On Friday, the Cole County Circuit Court said Nixon did.
In a statement, Nixon said the ruling re-affirmed a governor’s authority to keep the state budget in balance.
“This constitutional authority has enabled me to maintain strict fiscal discipline, protect Missouri’s spotless AAA credit rating, and keep our economy moving forward,” Nixon said.
“As a result of our fiscal discipline, the Office of Public Defender has seen a 15 percent increase in funding and a nearly 5 percent increase in staff during my tenure, even while other state agencies have had to tighten their belts and full-time state employment has been reduced by nearly 5,100. It is my hope that the Office of Public Defender will now return its attention to the job it has to do, and the resources already available with which to do it.”
In August, the head of the public defender’s system in Missouri assigned Nixon a case in an ongoing effort to ease the burden on existing public defenders. But the court in Cole County ruled late that month that public defender chief Michael Barrett didn’t have the authority to make such appointments.