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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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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