Mississippi Legislature Passes Bill Creating Unelected Court in Jackson

UPDATE: On April 21, Gov. Tate Reeves signed H.B. 1020 into law.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, March 31, the Mississippi Legislature passed a controversial bill that would create a separate, unelected court over parts of Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital. House Bill 1020 would allow court personnel, including judges and prosecuting attorneys, to be appointed by white, statewide officials even though Black Mississippians make up more than 80% of Jackson’s population. Almost every Black member of the Mississippi Legislature opposed the bill and many of them spoke out against the proposal. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Tate Reeves (R) for his signature.

Rep. Zakiya Summers, D-Jackson speaks against passage of the controversial Jackson Capitol Complex Improvement District bill in the House Chamber, Friday, March 31, 2023, at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Currently, court cases in Jackson are typically handled by the Hinds County Circuit Court, whose judges are elected by Jackson residents. As originally introduced, H.B. 1020 would have created a permanent, unelected court system for the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID), a special district covering portions of Jackson. Disagreements between the state House and state Senate led to the formation of a conference committee to work out a compromise. The final version of the bill instead would allow the chief justice of the state Supreme Court to appoint four temporary judges to the Hinds County Circuit Court and create a new, temporary court to handle low-level cases within the CCID. Similarly, the state’s white attorney general would appoint the CCID’s prosecutors. Since these judges would not be elected (unlike other Mississippi judges), none of them would be directly accountable to the residents of Jackson. In another change from the original version, these provisions of H.B. 1020 would only be in effect until 2027, after which the temporary judgeships and CCID court would be eliminated.

Read H.B. 1020 here.

Track the status of H.B. 1020 here.