Jackson residents seeking expedited consideration in H.B. 1020 appeal

Published: May. 19, 2023 at 7:10 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Three Jackson residents are seeking an expedited decision in a case that could deem portions of a controversial law enforcement bill unconstitutional.

On Friday, attorneys on behalf of Ann Saunders, Sabreen Sharrief and Dorothy Triplett filed a motion for expedited consideration with the Mississippi Supreme Court in their constitutional challenge of H.B. 1020.

The three are asking the court for an expedited briefing and argument schedule, and for the court to hand down a ruling before July 1, 2023, when the law is expected to take effect.

“This case involves a matter of utmost importance, involving the structure of Mississippi state government as established by the Mississippi Constitution,” they write. “The denial of a constitutional right, ‘for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”

The trio filed a complaint against the state this spring, challenging the provision of H.B. 1020 that requires the chief justice to appoint four additional circuit judges to the Hinds County bench.

They also are challenging a state statute that gives the chief justice authority to appoint judges in certain situations, as well as a provision of H.B. 1020 establishing an inferior court to handle cases within the Capitol Complex Improvement District.

“The people of Mississippi have elected their circuit court judges for more than 100 years because the Mississippi Constitution expressly requires as much,” the motion states. “Indeed, Mississippi was the first state to select all of its judges by election, establishing this in the Constitution of 1832.”

The suit further states that the constitution only allows for the governor to appoint temporary judges, and “in very limited circumstances.”

State statute, meanwhile, has allowed for the chief justice to appoint judges to lower courts in various circumstances.

For years, special judges have been assigned to Hinds County to help handle backlogs of cases, including in 2022 to help with a backlog brought about by COVID-19.

The suit also takes issue with 1020′s creation of an inferior CCID court.

The CCID takes in a large swath of the capital city. The court, which also would have an appointed judge, would handle misdemeanor cases that originate within CCID boundaries.

“Unlike others convicted of misdemeanors in other courts throughout the state, those found guilty of misdemeanors in the CCID court can be sent to state prison,” the suit states. “Moreover, H.B. 1020 provides no avenue for appeal or any form of supervision by a constitutional court of the decisions and judgments of the CCID court.”

In his ruling, Thomas said defendants in the CCID court would be able to appeal to the county court system under existing state law.

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