Temporary judges could be appointed under House Bill 1020 by end of week following ruling

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 9:03 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The legal battle over House Bill 1020 has been playing out in court ever since it was signed into law back in April.

Earlier this year the NAACP filed a federal lawsuit claiming the bill was unconstitutional, even naming the State’s Chief Justice Mike Randolph as a party in the case.

However, during a hearing on Wednesday, U.S. District Court Henry Wingate cleared Randolph from the lawsuit.

Randolph has been removed from a lawsuit at the state level, now he’s being dismissed from a lawsuit at the federal level.

This means four temporary judges could be tapped to serve on the Hinds County Circuit Court bench as early as Thursday.

The Chief Justice is in charge of appointing the four yet-to-be-named judges to the Hinds County Circuit Court bench.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Wingate issued an abbreviated opinion detailing why he thinks Randolph should be removed from the lawsuit.

Judge Wingate said this is not a traditional municipal court, and Randolph would be acting well within his duty to appoint four temporary judges because the law requires him to do so.

Following this decision, plaintiffs asked for a temporary restraining order against the four judges who would be appointed, preventing them from taking office.

Their argument is that the appointments strip Hind’s County voters of their right to elect a judge of their choice, which is the way it’s done with other circuit court judges.

“The appointment of judges departs from the constitutional requirement of Mississippi that the judges be elected,” said Mark Lynch, an attorney for the plaintiffs “We’re asking to have our complaint amended and to enter a temporary restraining order against the people who will be appointed to these judgeships.”

“I was pleased with the oral rulings Judge (Henry) Wingate gave, which I think are the correct rulings, but I’m reluctant to say anything else in light of the fact that he said he was going to do a written order, and I’d rather wait out of respect to him before I make any other comment on it,” said Chief Justice Mike Randolph, with the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Judge Wingate plans to issue his official order on Randolph by the end of the week.

Once that order is issued, the federal judge said he will then decide on other rulings relating to House Bill 1020.

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