27 Jan House Bill 1020 is Blatant Power Grab to Usurp Elected Officials and Dilute Black Representation in Hinds County, says Mississippi Center for Justice
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2023
Press Contact: Courtney Farrell, email@example.com, 989-572-8162
House Bill 1020 is Blatant Power Grab to Usurp Elected Officials and Dilute Black Representation in Hinds County, says Mississippi Center for Justice
Jackson, Miss. – On Wednesday, the Mississippi House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee passed House Bill 1020 – “An Act To Create Inferior Courts In The Capitol Complex Improvement District.” If passed, HB1020 would create, among other things, a new court of appointed judges and prosecutors in Jackson. Unlike all other court systems in Mississippi – which allow voters to elect judges – the proposed new court would be operated solely by judges appointed by the chief justice of Mississippi’s Supreme Court.
In response, Vangela M. Wade, President and CEO of Mississippi Center for Justice, said the following:
“House Bill 1020 is a blatant power grab to usurp democratically elected officials and constitutional processes, and would further dilute Black representation and voices in Hinds County and the City of Jackson, Mississippi. This is a gross example of government overreach – an attempt by singularly focused state leadership to impose its will on a sovereign municipality and strip autonomy from Jackson and Hinds County. This should concern every single one of us – every community, large or small, regardless of racial or economic makeup across our state and nation.
This unprecedented power grab exists only for Hinds County, a majority Black County with a majority Black electorate, where the legislature has created a new Judicial District for the Capital Complex Improvement District (CCID) for a sprawling area of Hinds County that includes the Capitol, the Jackson State corridor, and other important areas of the City of Jackson and Hinds County.
Notably, it appears the new court would have exclusive jurisdiction over all suits brought against the State of Mississippi and its agencies. In these important cases, where citizens seek to hold the state accountable under the law, the judges would be handpicked by one person, the chief justice, with no role for the voters.
If this bill becomes law, unelected judges unaccountable to the electorate will oversee a significant portion of the criminal and civil legal system of Hinds County and the City of Jackson – reducing the jurisdiction of the duly elected justice court, circuit court, and chancery judges, as well as the District Attorney of Hinds County, blatantly disregarding the will of Jackson and Hinds County voters.
Not only is this proposal likely unconstitutional, but it would also divert critical tax revenue away from Jackson – which still does not have clean drinking water – and siphon money from the city taxpayers to fund this politically overzealous and unnecessary scheme.
This bill is an example of governmental leaders overarching and taking power away from the voters. There is no reason to single out one community and take away that authority. Today it is happening in Hinds County and the City of Jackson, but tomorrow it could happen to any other city in this state. In Mississippi, we have made the decision to trust the selection of judges to the voters.
This bill sends the wrong message at the wrong time. In addition to changing the rules at the expense of the majority Black electorate in Hinds County, it appears to violate the Mississippi Constitution’s provisions regarding judicial authority and election of judges and also the federal Voting Rights Act, which prohibits schemes that dilute the voting strength of particular racial groups. Hopefully, the legislature will abandon this flawed and discriminatory plan.
Mississippi Center for Justice will stand with the citizens and leadership of Hinds County and the City of Jackson against this legislation.”
The Mississippi Center for Justice is dedicated to dismantling the state’s culture of inequity and injustice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.