Fight over building new court centers on equality in Mississippi’s majority-black capital city.


Jackson, Miss. (AP) - The constitutional right to equal treatment under the law is at the center of a months-long legal battle. a state run court In part of Jackson, Mississippi's majority-black capital.

A federal judge is set to hear arguments Dec. 19 on the Capitol Complex Improvement District Court, which is scheduled to be created Jan. 1.

The new court will be led by a state-appointed judge and prosecutors, and will be the equivalent of a municipal court handling misdemeanor cases. Municipal judges and prosecutors in Mississippi are generally appointed by local elected officials, but legislators who created the CCID court said it was part of a package to fight crime.

The Justice Department says the new court would continue Mississippi's long history of trying to suppress the rights of Black people to participate in government.

Kristen wrote, "Like many previous efforts to weaken black political power, (the law) would desegregate the majority-black city of Jackson to the detriment of local control and self-governance of its judicial system and the ability to enforce its municipal laws." Does." Clark, Assistant Attorney General of the department's Civil Rights Division, and Todd Gee, U.S. attorney for South Mississippi, filed the Dec. 5 federal court filing.

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The state's Republican attorney general disagrees, saying in a separate filing Thursday that the NAACP and the Jackson residents who are suing the state have failed to prove they will be harmed.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Special Assistant State Attorney General Rex Shannon wrote on behalf of Fitch, Mississippi Public Safety Commissioner Sean Tyndall and Capitol Police Chief Bo Luckey that stopping construction of the new courthouse would cause irreparable harm.

"The Legislature established the CCID Court to address Jackson's clearly recognized, ongoing public-safety and criminal-justice emergencies," Fitch and Shannon wrote. “Those emergencies seriously impact not only people who live in Jackson, but all Mississippians.”

The plaintiffs are asking U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate to block construction of the new courthouse in the district, which includes state government buildings and some residential and business areas in the city, including predominantly white neighborhoods.

The court will hear misdemeanor cases, with judges appointed by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court and prosecutors appointed by the state attorney general – both of whom are white and politically conservative.

Opponents say the new court will impact not only people who live or work in the district, but also people who have been fined for speeding or other misdemeanor violations.

Mississippi legislators voted during the spring term. expand area For the state-run Capitol Police to patrol inside Jackson. He also voted to authorize the Chief Justice to appoint four judges To serve with four elected circuit court judges in Hinds County, where Jackson is located, and to create the Capitol Complex Improvement District Court.

Opponents of the changes were Republican Governor Tate Reeves and the Republican-controlled and majority-white Legislature. usurpation of local autonomy in Jackson and Hinds counties, both of which are majority-black and governed by Democrats.

Justice Department officials wrote that creating a new municipal-level court with state-appointed judges and prosecutors unconstitutionally treats Jackson residents differently from other Mississippi residents.

Lifelong Jackson resident Frank Figures, who is black and describes himself as a community activist and NAACP member, wrote in a court filing on Nov. 13 that the chief justice and attorney general "are hostile to me as a voter." Are not accountable."

Chief Justice Mike Randolph is elected from a district that does not include Jackson. Fitch won a second term during the statewide election on November 7, but trailed her Democratic challenger in Hinds County.

"Given the long history of racism in Mississippi, my vote is the best means of ensuring that public officials will treat me and my community fairly and equally," Figures wrote. Vote, and as far as I can tell, they have made no effort to understand my community.

Mark Nelson, an attorney representing Randolph, responded in a filing on November 16, asking Wingate to remove "derogatory" statements of Figures and other NAACP members from the court record.

"Allegations of racism without facts or evidence are harassing and reprehensible," Nelson wrote.

In September, the state Supreme Court repealed part of the same law Dealing with circuit court judges appointed to handle felony cases and civil lawsuits. The judges said Mississippi law allows the chief justice to appoint judges for specific reasons, such as dealing with pending cases. But he wrote that he saw "nothing special or unique" about the four circuit judges appointed to law this year. Randolph recused himself from that case.

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