Midwest Litigation Services announces the Dollars for Depositions program, which will provide up to $21,000 in funding for deposition services for the Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel (MCRC), a non-profit partnership that allows young attorneys to gain case and trial experience by taking on cases from the public defender’s office on a volunteer basis, thus helping to ease their caseload.
“After learning about the important work that MCRC is doing – a private-public partnership bringing swifter justice to the indigent – it was an easy decision to join many of our partner law firms in supporting their efforts,” said Debbie Weaver, President of Midwest Litigation Services.
The Missouri public defender’s office last year saw a 12 percent increase in cases to 82,000. MCRC was launched earlier this year to help ease that case load, and founders believe it could make a significant impact in the future, potentially creating a model for other states facing similar challenges.
“I was astonished to learn that the Missouri public defender’s office ranks 49 out of 50 states in terms of funding per case, and with such tight budgets, public defenders are only able to depose four percent of cases and take only one percent to trial. We are committed to being part of the effort that changes that,” Weaver said.
As part of MCRC efforts, the Missouri State Public Defender’s office has trained 100 volunteer lawyers to date. Currently, 52 active cases from the public defender’s office have been assigned and accepted by MCRC volunteers, each of which is eligible to take advantage of the Dollars for Depositions program.
“This Dollars for Depositions program is not only exceedingly generous, it also validates that our volunteers are doing important work and others, like Midwest, are out there to back them up as they represent the indigent defendant on the front lines of the justice system,” said Richard Scherrer, chair and co-founder of MCRC.
In addition to the scheduling and coordination provided by Midwest Litigation’s internal staff, many of the independent court reporters and videographers in their network have pledged support as well.
“We believe everyone deserves access to a good defense. If you’re assigned a public defender, it shouldn’t be limited because the state doesn’t have the budget,” said Weaver. “We know how important the discovery process is to building a strong case, which is why we are supporting this program with deposition services.”