The creation of a state-run municipal court system in Jackson, Miss., is temporarily blocked after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a New Year’s Eve order delaying House Bill 1020’s implementation.
The news came hours after U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate rejected a request from the NAACP to delay the establishment of the court to oversee the Capitol Complex Improvement District that had been set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. Under the law, the Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice would make the appointments.
“None of the Plaintiffs has alleged that he or she is in actual or imminent danger of experiencing any concrete and particularized injury resulting from the establishment of the CCID Court or the challenged appointment of a judge or prosecutors for that court,” Wingate wrote in his decision on Dec. 31, the Associated Press reported the same day.
But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the NAACP’s request to delay the start of the new court system, allowing for a temporary stay until Jan. 5, and ordered Wingate to “issue a final appealable order” by noon Wednesday.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed House Bill 1020 into law in April 2023 to establish the new courts. The NAACP, representing Jackson residents, filed a complaint on April 21, 2023, arguing that the creation of a separate court system was unconstitutional. The U.S. Department of Justice followed suit in a July 12, 2023, motion to intervene, saying “the Mississippi Legislature has shortchanged Hinds County’s criminal justice system” for decades.
The mostly white group of Mississippi lawmakers who backed the law argued that the new court system would quell crime in majority-Black Jackson and make residents safer. However, opponents of the law say it is another example of state lawmakers attempting to dilute the power of Black voters to elect their own judges in the capital city.
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