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State-Run Jackson Court Can Move Forward After Judge Again Denies NAACP Request

Paloma Wu with the Mississippi Center for Justice, waves the names of officials who would appoint new judges and prosecutors if Mississippi House Bill 1020 were to pass
U.S. District Court Judge Henry T. Wingate reaffirmed his Dec. 31, 2023, order rejecting an NAACP request to delay the establishment of a state-appointed court to oversee the Capitol Complex Improvement District in Jackson, Miss. Seen here, Mississippi Center for Justice attorney Paloma Wu waves the name of Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who is required to appoint prosecutors to the CCID court under H.B. 1020, during a protest on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

A state-run court in the City of Jackson, Miss., will soon be able to move forward after a federal judge reaffirmed his Dec. 31 ruling that denied the NAACP’s motion to delay the implementation of a new court to oversee Jackson’s Capitol Complex Improvement District. Opponents of the court warn that the law establishing it, House Bill 1020, takes power to elect their own judges away from voters in majority-Black Jackson.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Judge Henry T. Wingate said his ruling met the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ New Year’s Eve request for a “final appealable order” when it temporarily blocked the Jackson court’s establishment.

The NAACP filed a new motion on Jan. 2, renewing its request for a judicial injunction to block Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph from appointing judges and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch from appointing prosecutors to the CCID court. Wingate held a hearing on Jan. 3 and listened to arguments from the NAACP about why state officials should be blocked from making the appointments.

“The CCID court has now come into existence, and Defendants Randolph and Fitch are now required by H.B. 1020 to make their appointments. Those appointments, however, are currently stayed by order of the Court of Appeals, which expires at noon on Friday, January 5, 2024,” the NAACP’s Jan. 2 motion states.

Click the screencap to read Judge Henry T. Wingate’s Jan. 3, 2024, motion.

Judge Wingate’s Jan. 3 final order denied that motion.

“After conferring with each party, this court and all parties agreed that this court’s December 31, 2023, Order [Docket no. 135] is a ‘final appealable order.’ The parties concluded that the Fifth Circuit had issued its directive before this court had the opportunity to file its Order,” Wingate’s Jan. 3 order states.

“This court, in lockstep with the State Defendants’ argument, found that Plaintiffs’ motion must be denied because: (1) this court has found that Plaintiffs have no standing to seek this injunctive relief; (2) this court already has denied the Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction concerning the above-referenced appointments, and granting this “renewed” motion would award Plaintiffs that same injunctive relief; (3) this court has already denied the Plaintiffs’ original motion for an injunction pending appeal;and (4) Plaintiffs have not made a requisite showing for injunctive relief.”

Gov. Tate Reeves signed H.B. 1020 into law on April 21, 2023, creating the new court under state law. Reeves posted to social media after signing the bill, saying “the new law does not take away power from Jacksonians or their elected judges.” The law’s proponents say it will help curb crime in the capital city.

That same day, the NAACP filed a complaint on behalf of Jackson residents, arguing that H.B. 1020 suppresses the constitutional rights and voting power of residents of the majority-Black City of Jackson by allowing state-appointed officials to run the CCID court rather than allowing voters to choose judges.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled on H. B. 1020 in a separate case on Sept. 21, 2023, saying that the creation of the state-run municipal court system was constitutional but striking down part of it that would have allowed Chief Justice Michael K. Randolph to also make temporary appointments to the Hinds County Circuit Court.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ order temporarily delaying the implementation of the court expires at noon tomorrow.

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