Over the last two years, in both Kansas and Missouri, the number of criminal appeals and post-conviction cases wherein the accused has asked for appointed (free) counsel has risen sharply. The backlog of appeals being sent over to the Kansas Appellate Defender's Office has created such a backlog that in many instances, the initial case docketing process (which is essentially the preparation and filing of introductory paperwork informing the Court of Appeals about the nature of the new appeal, the parties, the claims, etc.) is taking as long as 8-10 months (while the deadline for the filing of these documents is 21 days after the accused files a "Notice of Appeal"). Because the Kansas Court of Appeals knows of the situation, and because the enforcement of the 21 day deadline will only harm the accused who is in this procedural quagmire of the deadline being missed through no fault of his or her own, the Kansas Court of Appeals has been simply excusing the non-compliance. So, in Kansas, proceeding with appointed counsel - despite the deadline non-compliance issues - is still a viable option (though your appointed public defender won't be reaching your case for up to a year or more after the time you first file your Notice of Appeal; and, your appointed public defender will be working on your case while also under an inordinate amount of pressure from being overworked under a crushing caseload).
Meanwhile, over in Missouri, the appointed appellate and post-conviction public defenders are just as overwhelmed with a crushing caseload. But the Missouri Court of Appeals is not very sympathetic. In two somewhat shocking decisions handed down the week before Christmas, the Court said that compliance with the deadlines for post-conviction filings as set forth in the Missouri Supreme Court Rules (i.e., Rule 29.15, Rule 24.035) are "jurisdictional" and will not be extended or excused under any circumstances. See Thomas v. State, -- S.W.3d --, 2016 Westlaw 7388624 (Mo. App. E.D. December 20, 2016)(Case no. ED 104261); Conaway v. State, -- S.W.3d --, 2016 Westlaw 7388595 (Mo. App. E.D. December 20, 2016)(Case no. ED 104130). In these cases, the Missouri Public Defender's Office had been appointed to both accused defendants, for the purpose of handling their post-conviction claims alleging that their trial court attorneys had performed deficiently, entitling them to new trials. In both cases, the appointed post-conviction public defenders missed their filing deadlines, each for different reasons (in Thomas, for example, the first appointed lawyer had to withdraw from the appointment after learning of a conflict of interest with a previous client, thus resulting in a second appointed lawyer being assigned the case less than a week before the filing deadline). In both cases, the State's prosecutors prevailed upon the Missouri Court of Appeals to dismiss these post-conviction cases as "untimely." Now both Mr. Thomas and Mr. Canaway must start all over again, going back to their trial court judges and asking for permission to start their post-conviction cases from scratch, because they had technically been "abandoned" by their appointed post-conviction public defenders. Even if these men are successful in gaining permission to start the post-conviction process all over again, they have lost valuable time, sitting in jail; they have lost valuable time that could have been spent looking for witnesses and investigating leads.