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‘Deeply Disappointed’ Jackson Residents Will Appeal H.B. 1020 Ruling

Attorney Paloma Wu speaking in court
Three Jackson residents plan to appeal a judge’s ruling upholding H.B. 1020’s mandate for the white Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice to appoint judges in Hinds County, a coalition announced on May 15, 2023. Seen here, Mississippi Center For Justice Attorney Paloma Wu questions plaintiff Ann Saunders, right, during a hearing on May 10, 2023, in Hinds County Chancery Court in Jackson, Miss. Co-counsel attorney Cliff Johnson, of the MacArthur Justice Center, is seated to the left. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Three Jackson residents have appealed a judge’s ruling that upheld House Bill 1020 to the Mississippi Supreme Court, a May 18 docket shows.

Original story:

Three Jackson residents will appeal a judge’s ruling that upheld House Bill 1020’s mandate for Mississippi’s white Supreme Court chief justice to appoint unelected judges to serve in majority-Black Hinds County, a coalition of organizations supporting their efforts said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

The majority-white Mississippi Legislature mandated the appointments under House Bill 1020, which lawmakers passed and Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law earlier this year. Plaintiffs argued in court earlier this month that the appointments deprive them of the right to have their cases heard by the judges they elect.

Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas issued a ruling this morning in which he said he could not “find that Plaintiffs herein have proven unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt” and that “the appointment of temporary special judges does not ‘dilute the power of the duly elected judges’ as posited by Plaintiffs.”

The plaintiffs were “deeply disappointed by Judge (Dewayne) Thomas’s ruling and are prepared to take their fight to the Mississippi Supreme Court,” the groups backing the plaintiffs said on Monday afternoon. The organizations joining the statement include Jxn Undivided Coalition, the MacArthur Justice Center, the national branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Mississippi, the Mississippi Center For Justice and the Legal Defense & Educational Fund.

“They will file their Notice of Appeal (Tuesday) morning, and on appeal will argue that the plain language of the Mississippi Constitution demands that circuit court judges be elected and does not permit the four judicial appointments to the Hinds County Circuit Court required by H.B. 1020,” the statement said. “The plaintiffs also will challenge other rulings made in the chancery court, including Judge Thomas’s determination that Chief Justice Michael K. Randolph is entitled to judicial immunity and cannot be sued in Mississippi state court.”

Even though the state judge did not block the law, a federal judge hearing a separate case on H.B. 1020 did temporarily block Chief Justice Randolph from making appointments under the law on May 12 pending a hearing in his court later this month.

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