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Two lawsuits filed to stop new law...

Two lawsuits filed to stop new law aimed at fighting crime in Jackson

By: Sarah Ulmer - April 25, 2023
Capitol Police

(Photo from the MS Dept. of Public Safety Facebook)

Both lawsuits say the legislation – HB 1020 – disenfranchises black Jacksonians and infringes on their rights as citizens.

Two lawsuits have been filed in an attempt to halt the implementation of House Bill 1020 and Senate Bill 2343. The bills work in tandem to expand the Capitol Complex Improvement District (CCID) in Jackson, which also increases the jurisdiction of the Capitol Police. HB 1020 also allows for additional special temporary judges in Hinds County, permanent Assistant District Attorneys and Defenders, and the creation of a new inferior municipal court within the CCID to expire in 2027.

The first lawsuit came from the NAACP

Last week, the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit against the two pieces of legislation. The group claims that the bills were designed to suppress the First Amendment rights of African American residents in Jackson. The NAACP cites provisions in the bill that handle event licensing. CCID area event requests must not only go through the city of Jackson but also the Department of Public Safety.

The new requirements could “restrict Mississippi residents’ ability to protest and hold demonstrations in and around buildings considered property of the state,” according to the NAACP.

RELATED: Governor Reeves signs controversial HB 1020, saying, “We’re one step closer to a better Jackson”

“Black Jacksonians need real investment in their infrastructure and complete control over the future of their city. The NAACP will do whatever it takes to protect Jackson residents from the elected officials that continue to fail them,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “We will continue to collaborate and mobilize the people of Jackson to ensure their voices are heard and rights are protected.”

The group launched a public petition to urge the Mississippi Legislature and Governor to establish a Jackson Community Bill of Rights.

Governor Tate Reeves took to Twitter to defend the legislation. He wrote that the NAACP president Johnson, Democrat politicians, and the “defund the police” activists may be willing to stand by and do nothing, but he is not.

“Families in Jackson are begging for help restoring law and order to a city that desperately needs it. So, we are going to do everything we can do to help them,” said Reeves.

Governor Tate Reeves
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks at a news briefing following the signing ceremony on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at a state office building in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis – Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Author of the bill, Representative Trey Lamar (R) said that while he has not reviewed the suits in depth, at first glance, they represent disingenuous allegations.

“It appears the activists’ main claim is that the appointment of the temporary special judges that the Legislature has funded to help clear the judicial log jam in Hinds County are unconstitutional. That is such a disingenuous allegation and reeks of radical liberal politics,” said Lamar. “That [appointment of judges] is the very thing that multiple members of the Hinds County delegation requested the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi Legislature to implement, over the last several years in order to assist Jackson and Hinds County. This is a well-established fact.”

Lamar said the goal of the Legislature is to try and help restore law and order to the Capital city while assisting the Hinds County judiciary with a documented backlog issue.

“Lawsuits like this will do nothing but help prop up the criminal element in Jackson at the expense of the very people that we are trying to protect,” said Lamar.

ACLU files a separate lawsuit on behalf of three residents

On Monday, the Mississippi Center for Justice announced that three Jackson residents had filed a lawsuit with the Hinds County Chancery Court. The suit requests that the court block the implementation of House Bill 1020.

Ann Saunders, Sabreen Sharrieff, and Dorothy Tripplett are the plaintiffs in the suit. The plaintiffs claim the now law violates the state’s constitutional provision of “shall be elected.”

The MacArthur Justice Center, Mississippi Center for Justice, the ACLU-MS and Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) joined in the lawsuit.

“State lawmakers have said that this takeover of our judicial system is for our own good, for our own safety, and that is deeply offensive to me,” said Ann Saunders. “African Americans in Mississippi died so that we could vote. How does weakening the right to self-governance make us safer?”

This particular court has already been operating with two appointed judges. According to State Senator Brice Wiggins, the Legislature has funded those positions for the last two years. Lawmakers also provided for additional prosecutors. HB 1020 essentially codified the current provision of four judges, however according to Wiggins only three were currently filled. The positions have expiration dates, according to the legislation.

“This session, lawmakers had several opportunities to help Jackson residents,” said Jarvis Dortch, Director of the ACLU of Mississippi, and former state representative. “They could have saved a failing health care system, fixed a broken, corrupt TANF program, or fully funded public education; instead, legislators spent 90 days pushing bills to diminish the political and voting power of Jackson’s Black citizens.”

Editors note: This article was updated regarding the previous report on how many temporary judge seats were codified in the legislation.
About the Author(s)
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Sarah Ulmer

Sarah is a Mississippi native, born and raised in Madison. She is a graduate of Mississippi State University, where she studied Communications, with an emphasis in Broadcasting and Journalism. Sarah’s experience spans multiple mediums, including extensive videography with both at home and overseas, broadcasting daily news, and hosting a live radio show. In 2017, Sarah became a member of the Capitol Press Corp in Mississippi and has faithfully covered the decisions being made by leaders on some of the most important issues facing our state. Email Sarah: