UNITED STATES NEWS

Mississippi high court blocks appointment of some judges in majority-Black capital city and county

Sep 21, 2023, 4:45 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday struck down part of a state law that would have authorized some circuit court judges to be appointed rather than elected in the capital city of Jackson and the surrounding county, which are both majority-Black.

Critics said the law was an effort by the majority-white Legislature to stomp on voting rights and to treat Jackson and Hinds County residents unfairly in a state where most judges are elected.

In the ruling, justices affirmed a part of the law that creates a new court to hear misdemeanor cases in a part of Jackson that includes the state Capitol and other state government buildings.

Justices said the Mississippi Constitution allows legislators to create “inferior” courts, and the new Capitol Complex Improvement District court would have the same powers as a municipal court, with the CCID judge appointed by the state’s chief justice. The ruling also made clear that people will have a right to appeal decisions made by the new court.

Jackson residents who sued to challenge the law issued statements Thursday praising the Supreme Court decision.

“As a citizen of Jackson who has traced my family’s documented presence in Mississippi back to 1855, I am grateful for the clarity of the state constitution regarding the election of circuit court judges, and I am grateful for the Justices affirming that constitutional requirement,” Ann Saunders said.

Another plaintiff, Dorothy Triplett, said state leaders should work with the city of Jackson rather than attempt a “hostile takeover” of citizens’ rights.

“My hope is that today’s ruling will convince legislators that the people of Jackson aren’t just going to roll over when targeted, especially when fundamental principles of our democracy are attacked,” Triplett said.

Legislators voted this year to expand the territory of the state-run Capitol Police department in Jackson, to create the new court and to authorize the appointment of four circuit judges in Hinds County. Supporters said they were trying to improve safety in the city of about 150,000 residents, which has had more than 100 homicides in each of the past three years.

Opponents said the Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Tate Reeves were usurping local autonomy in Jackson and Hinds County, which are governed by Democrats.

Circuit judges hear criminal cases for felonies such as murder and aggravated assault. They also hear civil lawsuits. The law said the temporary circuit judges would be appointed by the chief justice to serve through 2026, which is most of the four-year term served by the elected judges.

Justices noted in the ruling Thursday that a longstanding Mississippi law allows the chief justice to appoint some justices for specific reasons, such as to deal with a backlog of cases. But they wrote that “we see nothing special or unique” about the four appointed Hinds County circuit judges in the law this year, “certainly nothing expressly tethering them to a specific judicial need or exigency.”

Although race has been a big part of legislative and public debate about the law, it was not a central issue during the Supreme Court arguments.

Chief Justice Mike Randolph recused himself from hearing the case because the lawsuit originally named him as one of the defendants.

In May, Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas dismissed the Jackson residents’ lawsuit days after he removed Randolph as a defendant. Thomas wrote that appointing judges does not violate the Mississippi Constitution.

A federal lawsuit filed by the NAACP challenges the appointment of judges and the expansion of the state police role in Jackson, arguing that the law creates “separate and unequal policing” for the city compared to other parts of Mississippi. U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate temporarily put the law on hold, which has blocked Randolph from appointing the four temporary circuit court judges. Wingate also wrote that: “Jackson has a crime cancer.”

United States News

FILE - This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidential ...

Associated Press

What is Super Tuesday? Why it matters and what to watch

The biggest day of this year’s primary campaign is approaching as 15 states — plus American Samoa — vote in contests known as Super Tuesday. The elections are a crucial moment for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, who are the overwhelming front-runners for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. As the day […]

35 minutes ago

Associated Press

Firefighters seek to corral massive Texas wildfires before weekend of higher temperatures and winds

CANADIAN, Texas (AP) — The explosive growth of the second-largest wildfire in Texas history slowed as winds and temperatures dipped but the massive blaze was still untamed and threatening more death and destruction. The Smokehouse Fire is the largest of several major fires burning in the rural Panhandle section of the state. It has charred […]

45 minutes ago

FILE - Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Pentagon press briefing at the Pentagon on Fe...

Associated Press

Defense chief on the defensive: Lawmakers to confront Austin on secret hospital stay

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will face Congress publicly for the first time Thursday to explain his failure to quickly notify the president and other senior leaders about his hospitalization last month for complications from prostate cancer surgery. He is expected to hear some sharp questions and criticism from members of the House […]

54 minutes ago

Traffic enter and leave mid-town Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Ne...

Associated Press

NYC’s plan to ease gridlock and pump billions into mass transit? A $15 toll for Manhattan drivers

NEW YORK (AP) — Between bridge and tunnel tolls, parking fees and the ever-present risk of getting a traffic ticket, it can already cost a mint to drive into Manhattan. Is forking over another $15 for the privilege of driving into the most traffic-choked parts of the island enough to finally get more people out […]

1 hour ago

FILE - The execution chamber at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution is shown as Security Institu...

Associated Press

Things to know about Idaho’s botched execution of serial killer Thomas Eugene Creech

KUNA, Idaho (AP) — For nearly an hour, Thomas Eugene Creech lay strapped to a table in an Idaho execution chamber as medical team members poked and prodded at his arms and legs, hands and feet, trying to find a vein through which they could end his life. After eight attempts Wednesday, the prison warden […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Firefighters extinguish a fire after a Russian attack on a residential neighborhood in Khark...

Associated Press

US adults fracture along party lines in support for Ukraine military funding, AP-NORC poll finds

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Russia makes battlefield advances and Ukrainian soldiers run short on ammunition, U.S. adults have become fractured along party lines in their support for sending military aid to Kyiv, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Democrats are more likely to say the U.S. government […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Mississippi high court blocks appointment of some judges in majority-Black capital city and county