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Greg Mermelstein named interim director of Missouri public defender system

   

Greg Mermelstein has been selected as the interim director of the Missouri public defender system

Mermelstein was named to the position by the State Public Defender Commission after Michael Barrett, who served at the helm for more than four years, announced his resignation in October. 

The State Public Defender Commission has named Greg Mermelstein interim director of Missouri’s public defender system (PROVIDED).

“The legislature wisely made the public defender an independent department of state government in order to protect the rights and [liberties] of people accused of crimes,” Mermelstein said in a statement. “Whether it’s fighting wrongful convictions or opposing illegal fees imposed on poor people, public defenders stop government overreach and uphold everyone’s constitutional rights.” 

Mermelstein said he will serve as interim director until the commission selects an official replacement for the job. However, Mermelstein did say he is in the running for the position and expects the commission to make a decision by early January. 

Meanwhile, Mermelstein told The Missouri Times he will not “embark on any new policy initiatives” while serving as an interim director. Instead, he will focus on putting together the budget proposal for state legislators, providing client services, and working on caseload initiatives. 

Mermelstein began working as a public defender in 1990 and has served in a variety of capacities — from supervising trial and death penalty offices to working in administrations and courtrooms — since. Most recently, he served as deputy director and general counsel. 

Barrett and his wife announced they would return to New York last month. Sebrina Barrett was the executive director of The Missouri Bar. 

Barrett was extremely vocal about funding woes and garnered national media attention when he appointed then-Gov. Jay Nixon as counsel on a case in 2016, blasting him for budget restrictions he put on the office. 

Barrett is joining the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), a nonprofit dedicated to protecting New York’s lands and waters, as its newest director.