The new year began without creation of a separate, state-run court in Jackson that some lawmakers lobbied as a solution to crime and advocates see as a threat to residents’ civil and voting rights.
Under House Bill 1020, the Capitol Complex Improvement District Court was supposed to be established Jan. 1, but at the 11th hour a panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary administrative stay until the end of the week, Jan. 5.
“The NAACP stands firm in our belief that this legislation is inherently undemocratic,” the organization, who sued on behalf of several Jackson residents, said in a Monday statement.
“We will continue to do everything in our power to fight for Jackson residents’ rights to have control over their own institutions and live free from state-driven discrimination.”
The NAACP appealed after U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate issued his order the evening of Dec. 31 in which he rejected requests to block the court’s creation through a preliminary injunction.
Wingate wrote the plaintiffs failed to show that they were in “actual or imminent danger” of experiencing concrete or particular injury from the CCID court’s establishment or appointments of a judge and two prosecutors to that court.
Attorneys from the NAACP have argued in court hearings and filings from throughout 2023 that the CCID court prevents local voters from voting for judges and prosecutors from the community who would be accountable to them and can be held accountable by local officials.
The state’s attorneys have said in court and filings that residents’ voting rights would not be affected by the court’s creation, and that none of the plaintiffs has or plans to appear before the CCID court.
A majority of the majority-white, Repubclican-controlled Legislature passed HB 1020 during the previous session, seeing it as a solution for Jackson’s crime and a way to bolster public safety. Many Black lawmakers and those who represent the majority-Black Jackson and Hinds County spoke out against the legislation and its approach to crime and public safety.
The state Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Randolph is directed under the law to make appointments to the CCID court, which to date have not been made.
Under the law, Randolph also was empowered to appoint temporary judges to the Hinds County Circuit Court. He was prevented from doing so under a temporary restraining order Wingate approved in May and, because up until September, he was still a defendant in the lawsuit against HB 1020.
The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled these appointments unconstitutional in a state lawsuit against HB 1020. Like Wingate, the justices ruled that creation of the CCID court did not violate the state constitution.
To date, Wingate has not ruled on several other motions before him regard HB 1020, including a request from the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene in the lawsuit.
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