JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After a public spat with Missouri Public Defender Michael Barrett, Gov. Jay Nixon appointed three new members to the Public Defender Commission.
Oliver Glenn Boyer, Thomas W. Neer and James J. Sievers were named to the commission, which has the power to hire the state public defender and make rules for the administration of the system. All three will serve six year terms ending in 2022.
“I am pleased to make these appointments, as I believe these new members will help the Public Defender Commission return to its focus of providing proper legal representation to indigent Missourians,” Nixon said.
Barrett has spent the past couple of months publicly fighting with Nixon over his decision to restrict portions of the office’s budget.
It began when he sued over Nixon’s ability to make those restrictions and escalated this month when he attempted to appoint Nixon as the public defender for an indigent defendant.
The vacancies filled on the commission had been open for years.
“Missouri’s Public Defender System was not a high priority of the Governor’s office for quite some time. We are hoping that Governor Nixon’s renewed interest in the system, as illustrated by finally making these three appointments, will not end here,” said Riley Bock, the commission’s chair.
Now that it’s full, there’s a possibility the panel could replace Barrett.
“We welcome new perspectives as we continue efforts to make sure that the right to counsel remains guaranteed to indigent persons who are charged with a criminal offense,” he said in a statement.
Boyer and Sievers have been named as Democratic members of the panel. Boyer has served as the sheriff of Jefferson County since 1993. He’s also served in the past as president of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association.
Sievers is a St. Louis attorney who interned with the Public Defender’s Office while in law school. His private practice includes defense work.
Neer was appointed as a Republican member of the commission. He served as sheriff of St. Charles County for 10 years.
While the appointees can begin serving immediately, they will all need to be confirmed by the Senate.
The appointments also bring to a close Doug Copeland’s tenure as a commissioner. He was the longest serving member of the commission and had served beyond the expiration of his term two years ago because no successor had been appointed.
“Doug was our longest serving member, and, of course, we will miss his experience,” Bock said.