Helena, MT -

The Helena justice court is rejecting the overloaded state public defender office's request to be taken off new cases.

The Office of the Public Defender told the court in September that staff attorneys have too many cases and are in danger of not meeting their ethical obligation to properly represent clients.

The public defender's office says that more than 3,000 cases were assigned in 2012 to its 10 attorneys in a region that covers Lewis and Clark, Jefferson and Broadwater counties.

Justice of the Peace Michael Swingley rejected the request on Friday.

Swingley says the office is required to represent indigent defenders, and must contract private attorneys if staff attorneys are overloaded.

The public defender's office has said its budget is already strained.