Judge hears arguments in House Bill 1020 challenge

Published: May. 10, 2023 at 7:09 PM CDT|Updated: May. 10, 2023 at 7:12 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Is the controversial House Bill 1020 unconstitutional? That’s a question pending before a Hinds County Chancery judge. The arguments were heard in a more than three hour hearing Wednesday.

Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas says this is probably the most serious case he’s ever considered as a judge. He posed a list of questions to both sides ahead of their arguments.

Three Hinds County residents are the plaintiffs in this case.

“Why did you want to bring this case challenging the appointment of circuit court judges and the establishment of the CCID court?” asked Mississippi Center for Justice attorney Paloma Wu.

All three plaintiffs took the stand to state their case.

“For some reason, my city is being singled out my county is being singled out for something other than legitimate access and to the court and are a legitimate reflection of a court that represents our vote,” said plaintiff Ann Saunders.

“It’s kind of bullying us in a way and saying you’re not capable of electing judges,” added plaintiff Dorothy Triplett. “So, we have to name them for you.”

“If they needed more, I would rather they be put on the ballot where I could elect them,” noted plaintiff Sabreen Sharrief.

Those testimonies were key in their attorney Cliff Johnson’s mind.

“I think that’s what was most compelling today is the voices of people, the voices of our clients, not the voices of a bunch of lawyers,” said Cliff Johnson, MacArthur Justice Center Director.

The plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of not only 1020 but also the state code that allows for the appointment of special temporary judges.

“We would submit to this court that a chancery court has no jurisdiction or power to review and invalidate the actions of the Supreme Court or the Chief Justice in appointing judges under that statute,” said attorney for the state Rex Shannon.

The judge expressed that he’s considering whether challenging the existing state law is something that would unravel previous decisions made by such judges. But we’ll have to wait till at least Friday to learn whether he’ll grant the preliminary injunction the plaintiffs are seeking.

The other issue heard today is whether the Chief Justice and Hinds County Circuit Clerk should be dismissed as defendants in this case. The judge expects to rule on that by Thursday at noon.

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