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Officials respond to bill that would create appointed judicial system in Capitol Complex Improvement District

Mississippi capitol
Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News

A House bill that would create an unelected governing body within Mississippi’s capital city has been garnering a lot of attention.

Representative Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, authored House Bill 1020 which would enact a court system within the Capitol Complex Improvement District that would operate separately from the Hinds County Court.

Instead of holding special elections for these new judges, they will be appointed by Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Justice Michael K. Randolph. Prosecutors would be appointed by Attorney General Lynn Fitch. The courts would have exclusive jurisdiction over cases in which the state government is a party.

The bill would also expand the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) from under 10 square miles to over 26. Capitol Police would have exclusive jurisdiction over the land mass if the legislation is passed.

As of now, the bill has passed the House Ways and Means Committee and is expected to be brought up soon for discussion on the House floor.

HB 1020 has received mixed reviews from various government officials and advocacy groups throughout the state. Some leaders have praised the bill for its initiative in curbing crime in the capital city while others deem it an unconstitutional attempt to take power away from Jackson voters.

State Representative Nick Bain, R-Corinth

“That judicial district would be there to try to help. The backlog of circuit court [cases] is enormous. This is a way to alleviate that and hopefully to get people more accountable for their crimes.”

State Senator Bryce Wiggins, R-Pascagoula

“For the last three years, the state, by the legislature, has been funding judges and prosecutors, additional to what we have, at the request of Jacksonians. We’ve been doing that already because they couldn’t get the crime under control… It’s about safety. You can go around and put your head in the sand. You can bite the hand that feeds you. I say that because we wouldn’t be here if Jackson wasn’t in this [situation]. We want Jackson to be stand along, if you will.”

Mississippi Senate Democrats

“The Mississippi Senate Democratic Caucus stands in solidarity with the Hinds County Democratic Delegation against HB 1020. HB 1020 is an attempt by Republicans to undermine the authority of elected officials and voters of the city of Jackson. This bill is a radical and obvious attempt to grant the governor undue power in the largest city in the state.”

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba

“They’re talking about a court system in which the judges would not be elected by Jackson residents. They would be appointed by the Supreme Court. A police force that has no accountability to the residents of Jackson… It reminds me of apartheid. They are looking to colonize Jackson, not only in terms of putting their military force over Jackson, but also dictating who has province over decision making.”

Hinds County Judges and Attorney General

“Every provision of House Bill 1020 is repugnant to the Constitution of the State of Mississippi and we are opposed to its introduction in either the House or in any similar form in the Senate for the reason that our Constitution specifically guarantees that the right of the people to Amend the Constitution of the State of Mississippi and that those vested rights, powers, duties, jurisdictions and authorities cannot be changed by a general bill.”

ACLU of Mississippi

“HB 1020 is a move to take voting power, political power, and tax revenue away from the majority Black citizens of Jackson. The legislation illegally empowers judges appointed by the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court and prosecutors appointed by the state attorney general to oversee criminal and civil cases in Jackson. These judges and prosecutors will be unelected and unaccountable to the citizens of Jackson. But they would have authority over a large segment of Jackson’s criminal and civil court system.”

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