Lawsuit filed by the NAACP, Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP, Jackson City Branch of the NAACP and six residents of Jackson, Mississippi against Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R), Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R), the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and other law enforcement officials challenging two recently enacted anti-democratic laws that target Jackson’s majority-Black population. One law, House Bill 1020, creates a new court with unelected judges that have jurisdiction over “preliminary matters, criminal matters, violations of motor vehicle and traffic laws, and disturbances of the peace” within the state’s Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID), a special district in Jackson centered around the state capitol building with its own police force.
The complaint alleges that the unelected judge in the new CCID court, who is appointed by the white, conservative chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, would have the authority to set terms of bail and release for Jackson residents “unfortunate enough to have charges filed in the CCID court rather than the Jackson Municipal Court.” The challenged law also allows Mississippi’s white attorney general to appoint the CCID’s prosecutors “by establishing two prosecuting attorney positions for any cause of action within the jurisdiction of the CCID court.”
In addition to creating an entirely new court system within the CCID, H.B. 1020 would require the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court to appoint additional temporary judges to the existing court (the Hinds County Circuit Court) that oversees Jackson, despite the fact that Black Mississippians make up more than 80% of Jackson’s population and have historically elected Black judges to serve on that court.
The other challenged law, Senate Bill 2343, puts Jackson’s predominantly Black population under control of state-run Capitol Police by expanding the CCID’s boundaries in order to give the Capitol Police jurisdiction over the entirety of Jackson. Prior to the passage of S.B. 2343, the Capitol Police only held policing power over certain state properties in the CCID, whereas under S.B. 2343’s extended jurisdiction, the Capitol Police “cover the entire City of Jackson, including residential neighborhoods miles away from the Capitol Complex,” according to the complaint. The plaintiffs also allege that S.B. 2343 will stymie “[a]lmost any effort to use protests or demonstrations to challenge the Capitol Police” since the law requires “the approval of the very same unelected officials tasked with running the Capitol Police.”
The plaintiffs contend that together, these two laws intentionally “discriminate against the majority-Black residents of Jackson on the basis of race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution” and ask the court to block their enforcement.
H.B. 1020’s court-packing provision was temporarily blocked pending a ruling on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. On June 1, the court dismissed the claims against the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court. Litigation against the remaining defendants is ongoing.