In the latest movement involving controversial House Bill 1020, a federal judge has temporarily blocked the Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice from appointing judges in the city of Jackson.
The temporary restraining order (TRO) from U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate comes after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) filed a lawsuit against the legislation going into effect. HB 1020, along with Senate Bill 2343, are slated to create an appointed court system in Mississippi’s capital city as well as expand the jurisdiction of Capitol Police.
While the laws are not to go into effect until July 1, the NAACP argued as part of their lawsuit that Chief Justice Michael Randolph could make appointments prior to that date and possibly skew the legal process.
“Randolph could at any moment make the appointments that [violate the] plaintiffs’ rights and his counsel was unable to give any assurance that he would not do so,” NAACP attorneys said in a federal court filing. “It is for this reason that plaintiffs requested a TRO.”
In its lawsuit, the NAACP is arguing that even though the bills are seen by Republican lawmakers as a step towards fixing the city’s law enforcement and criminal justice systems, the bills infringe on the constitutional rights of each citizen living in the capital city.
“The people of Jackson have been silenced and have faced years of discriminatory disinvestment and neglect from the state government which led to the major water crisis they are still dealing with to this day,” NAACP President and Jackson resident Derrick Johnson said. “If elected officials in Mississippi want to help address the results of their negligence and improve the lives of Jackson residents, they should start with completing improvements to Jackson’s water system, not undermining the constitutional rights of their citizens.”
The federal case also has a motion to dismiss Randolph entirely from the lawsuit. Wingate scheduled the next hearing on the matter for May 22 in U.S. District Court.
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