A lawsuit filed this month against Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott alleges the sheriff is illegally housing criminal and civil defendants together in the jail.
The suit was filed on behalf of a current inmate by a Missouri public defender, Matthew Mueller.
Mueller said state law maintains that criminal and civil defendants must be kept in different cells, but the Greene County Jail isn’t doing that.
The lawsuit — called a petition in mandamus — points to a state law that reads: “Persons confined under civil process or for civil causes shall be kept separate from criminals.”
Damon Phillips, an attorney for Arnott, called the suit a “frivolous legal argument” and one which public defenders are not authorized to make.
Instead, public defenders should focus on defending their clients, Phillips said, pointing out that public defenders had not made an appearance in the case on which the suit is based.
Greene County is one of five counties across the state in which Mueller has filed suits regarding this issue.
Mueller’s client, Amy A. Evans, is in the Greene County Jail currently for a probation violation, which is a civil — not criminal — matter.
Court records show Evans, 45, pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance — a felony — in 2016 and was placed on probation.
Evans violated her probation in 2017, court records say, and was arrested Dec. 2.
Mueller said he already plans to appeal the Greene County suit — and the suits in other counties if he loses in circuit court.
However, Mueller said he’ll have to find a judge willing to hear his case first.
According to court records, three Greene County judges have recused themselves: Michael Cordonnier, Mark Powell and Jason Brown.
“It’s kind of an interesting development,” Mueller said.
Correction: A reference to Amy Evans violating parole was incorrect in an earlier version of this story and should have said probation.