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Judicial redistricting fails this session, will be back up for consideration in 2025

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Senate Judiciary A Committee Chairman Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, waves a letter asking for help to combat crime in Jackson, Miss., during his call for support for the controversial Jackson Capitol Complex Improvement District bill, Thursday, March 30, 2023, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis – Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

  • Senator Wiggins told members on the Senate floor that the House chose not to do anything this year regarding judicial redistricting.

Despite attempts to stay ahead of the deadline, this year’s judicial redistricting proposal (SB 2771) did not make it past the conference deadline during the 2024 legislative session.

Circuit and Chancery court redistricting is required to be completed by the fifth year after a Census is taken. The cutoff for lawmakers to comply following the 2020 Census is 2025. If legislators do not act, the responsibility will shift to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

The redistricting proposal that was presented in the Senate adjusted both court systems to function with 55 judges each. In the conference report, the Circuit Court count increased to 56. Also included were new and revised sub-districts across the state.

Below are the Senate conference report maps for the proposed judicial redistricting:

State Senator Brice Wiggins (R), chairman of Senate Judiciary A Committee, led the process in the chamber. He said the plan largely reflects a greater balance of workload between the total number of judges, providing every district with at least two judges.

Wiggins said there are some judges handling roughly 80 cases a year, with others balancing a case load of 1,400 to 1,500 cases. In order to spread the work, districts were slightly redrawn and judgeships were altered more evenly in the plan. He indicated lawmakers also attempted to line up the Circuit and Chancery counties.

Following the demise of the legislation, Senator Wiggins said the Senate put together a conference report plan that accounted for proposals relating to the Delta and DeSoto County. However, he indicated the House decided not to address the issue.

Wiggins told members on the Senate floor that the House chose not to do anything this year regarding judicial redistricting. However, the Coast Senator said both chambers plan to head off the issue at the start of the 2025 session. Wiggins insinuated there could be additional hearings on the topic this summer.

“We did a lot of work, and the data is clear something has to be done. This plan that was put together and passed by the Senate is good for a myriad of reasons,” said Wiggins. “I see that at a minimum as a starting point, if not the actual plan.”

Judicial redistricting last took place in 2015 when seven new judgeships were created. Those were added to the 12th, 14th, 15th and 20th Circuit Courts, as well as the 4th, 11th, and 20th Chancery Courts.

As part of their research in determining what changes to make, Wiggins said hearings were held prior to the 2024 legislative session where lawmakers invited judges and attorneys to attend and provide feedback. 

Currently in Mississippi there are 23 Circuit Courts and 57 judges in those courts, and 20 Chancery Courts and 52 judges.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

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