A federal appeals court has allowed a separate court system to be created in Jackson, paving the way for state officials to appoint a judge and prosecutors to the new court.
The Capitol Complex Improvement District Court is now live, several days after it was initially meant to go into effect. Its start date had been delayed by a temporary administrative stay granted by a panel of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, but on Thursday the court vacated the stay.
In a lawsuit brought by the NAACP on behalf of several Jackson residents, the plaintiffs asked for an injunction to stop the court appointments and creation of the court, but U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate denied it. The same day, Dec. 31, the plaintiffs appealed to the 5th Circuit.
On Thursday, the 5th Circuit sided with Wingate and said the plaintiffs didn’t have standing for an injunction because they couldn’t prove imminent and actual risk of harm.
“The NAACP is profoundly disappointed by today’s ruling,” Janette McCarthy Wallace, general counsel for the NAACP, said in a statement. “Despite any obstacles we may face, the fight continues. Our case will proceed, with more briefing and arguments to come. The NAACP remains committed to upholding democracy and putting power back in the hands of Jackson residents.”
House Bill 1020 was signed into law in April 2023. Many lawmakers said they supported it as a way to address violent crime and bolster public safety in Jackson, while those against the legislation saw it as state control over the local criminal justice system.
Among the plaintiffs’ arguments was that the CCID court would dilute the vote of Jackson residents and take power away from local government.
“Nothing has been taken away from Jackson’s local governing authority,” the 5th Circuit wrote in its order, noting that the argument was not based in fact.
The ruling paves the way for white and Republican state officials to make appointments for the court in Jackson, which is predominately Black and Democratic.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Randolph will appoint one CCID court judge and Attorney General Lynn Fitch will appoint two prosecutors. As of Friday morning, those appointments have not been made.
Under the law, Randolph also was required to appoint four temporary judges to the Hinds County Circuit Court to work alongside appointed judges – an effort to help with the court’s case backlog.
In a separate lawsuit in state court, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that these appointments were unconstitutional.
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