Federal judge rules in favor of creating Mississippi state-run court in capital city News
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Federal judge rules in favor of creating Mississippi state-run court in capital city

A federal judge ruled Sunday that Mississippi officials can create the planned state-run court in Jackson, the state capital, where the majority of residents are Black, despite objections from the NAACP. The decision is part of a more significant legal battle over Mississippi’s expansion of state power in Jackson, which the NAACP has sued against.

US District Judge Henry Wingate dismissed requests to block the new court, stating that the NAACP and the citizen plaintiffs could not prove “concrete and particularized injury” and had no alleged threatened harm by the future judicial appointments. Legal precedent establishes that to have standing, the plaintiffs must prove “sustained or [that they are] immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as the result of the challenged statute or official conduct.” In the oral argument, the lawyer for the NAACP, Brenden Cline, admitted that the organization did not suffer direct injury but claimed that the fellow plaintiffs did because they are citizens who voted in Jackson. The court was not persuaded that the citizens had standing simply because they lived in Jackson, were registered voters and were African American. Wingate emphasized that the case thus could not bring a “particular motion for injunctive relief either individually or collectively.”

The original lawsuit accuses Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and other state officials of unfairly singling out Jackson. The civil rights organization said the legislation is undemocratic because it takes away the power of residents to elect their judicial officials. All-white state conservative officials will appoint judges for the Black district, and state police jurisdiction will expand throughout the city. Yet, the Mississippi Constitution directs that circuit court judges “be elected by the people” for four-year terms. The new system would bypass this requirement and would not apply to the rest of Mississippi.

Reeves released a statement after approving the legislation stating, “As long as I’m Governor, the state will keep fighting for safer streets for every Mississippian no matter their politics, race, creed, or religion – regardless of how we’re portrayed by liberal activists or in the national media.”

The court in question is the Capitol Complex Improvement District Court (CCID), which a state-appointed judge and prosecutors will lead. The NAACP has argued that the new court would take power away from Jackson citizens, impede citizens’ Fourteenth Amendment rights and cause procedural irregularities and bias. The Republican state legislators argued that the high crime rate in Jackson requires state intervention and greater policing. Violent crime exceeded the national average by 115.96 percent, according to the latest crime data submitted by the Jackson Police Department to the FBI National Incident-Based Reporting System.

Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, in support of the NAACP, announced, “Mississippi House Bill 1020 and Senate Bill 2343 represent a disturbing regression, rolling back decades of progress by stripping Jackson residents of their fundamental right to democratically elected leaders.”

The  United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a stay on the matter until Friday, and the district court is directed to issue a final appealable order by noon on Wednesday.