This viral letter from a public defender is a must-read about American justice.

Everyone deserves a fair trial. Everyone.

And one of the most important parts of a fair trial is having access to an attorney who actually knows what they are doing — someone who's willing to devote the proper time and energy to defending your innocence.

In fact, it's stated in both the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of Human Rights that courts have an obligation to provide an attorney to those who can't secure their own. (Hey, did you know that lawyers can be expensive?!)


This is why public defenders — defense attorneys provided and paid for by public funds — are a thing.

But what happens when a state government decides it's tired of spending so much money on public defenders?

In Missouri, recent budget cuts to the public defender program have been frequent and severe. So the department director decided to do something pretty drastic.

Director of the Missouri public defender program, Michael Barrett. Image via ABC 17/YouTube

In a scathing letter to Governor Jay Nixon, director Michael Barrett pointed out all the ways that the budget cuts are undermining the integrity of our legal system.

He said his attorneys' caseloads are way too high and the governor has refused to do anything about it.

"Seven years ago, your office vetoed [a Senate Bill] ... which would have provided caseload relief to an overburdened public defender system. In denying that relief, you acknowledged that MSPD was operating 'under significant stresses' and committed to working ... to fix the problem, but never did."

He explained that the cuts are affecting, most of all, poor minorities — ensuring they don't get a fair shake in our legal system.

"This action comes even after the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice found that poor black children are being systematically deprived of the rights in Missouri due in large part to the lack of public defenders. Choosing in the wake of that report to further debilitate the very organization that ensures an equal system of justice only adds to the escalating sentiment that the poor and disenfranchised do not receive a fair shake in Missouri's criminal justice system."

Finally, Barrett said he only has one extreme option left if he wants his meager budget to last through the year:

"As of yet, I have not utilized this provision because it is my sincere belief that it is wrong to reassign an obligation placed on the state by the 6th and 14th Amendments to private attorneys who have in no way contributed to the current crisis. However, given the extraordinary circumstances that compel me to entertain any and all avenues for relief, it strikes me that I should begin with the one attorney in the state who not only created this problem, but is in a unique position to address it."

Then, in an absolutely epic mic drop moment, Barrett ended the letter by exercising his authority to appoint the governor himself as counsel in an upcoming case.

Yeah, he can do that.

Missouri governor Jay Nixon. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"Therefore, pursuant to Section 600.042.5 and as Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System tasked with carrying out the State's obligation to ensure that poor people who face incarceration are afforded competent counsel in their defense, I hereby appoint you, Jeremiah W. (Jay) Nixon, Bar No. 29603, to enter your appearance as counsel of record in the attached case," Barrett wrote.

In other words: "You don't want to give me the resources I need to do my job? Fine. You do it then."

A representative of the governor's office said in an email that Barrett's claims are off base and that the public defender has "seen a 15 percent increase in funding."

Meanwhile, Barrett's office has "filed a lawsuit over what it calls Gov. Jay Nixon's unconstitutional decision to withhold $3.5 million in funds for defending indigent people," according to KY3.

They can sort out the exact numbers in court. And it's doubtful the governor will actually have to show up in court and argue a case.

But in the meantime, we have to applaud Michael Barrett, whose letter has gone viral for bringing some much needed attention to the issue of fair trials for all.

It's refreshing to see a public official willing to go to the mat for the people he's sworn to protect.

You can read the full letter here.

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In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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