HB 1020 appeal: How we got here and what to know ahead of Thursday’s hearing

Published: Jul. 4, 2023 at 10:40 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - We’re just two days away from the Mississippi Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in the appeal for a House Bill 1020 challenge. The legislation would make some changes to the court system, and we wanted to get you up to speed on which parts of the bill are up for discussion Thursday.

You may have already heard a lot about House Bill 1020, but not all aspects of the bill are being challenged in this court case. A major part of it is whether judges can be appointed rather than elected.

“Section one of House Bill 1020 provides for four appointed judges to the Hinds County Circuit Court, who will be serving in addition to the four elected Circuit Court judges,” said Blake Feldman, Mississippi Center for Justice Impact Policy Counsel. “The Constitution provides that the judges of the circuit courts shall be elected by the people. In this case, it is challenging that as a violation of the Constitution because if the Constitution doesn’t mean what it says, then it means nothing.”

Plaintiffs are also questioning the creation of the Capitol Complex Improvement District or CCID Court.

“The state kind of claims that it’s a municipal court,” said Feldman. “We just want to be very clear: This brand new CCID court is not a municipal court. It has different jurisdiction, it’s not in a municipality, it’s in a capital complex improvement district. No Municipal Court in the state looks like that.”

As a reminder of how we got here, the courts’ aspect of 1020 was first challenged in Hinds County Chancery Court. Chancellor DeWayne Thomas ruled that the plaintiffs didn’t do enough to show that the legislation violated the state constitution. But immediately after that, the appeal was filed.

So, what does it mean for you if you live in Jackson or Hinds County?

“This is the last stop for the state court case,” noted Feldman. “If we win here, then the bill is dead, the appointments don’t happen, and the CCID court is not created. If we are unsuccessful, then all of our eggs are in the basket of the NAACP v. Reeves in federal court.”

But the Jackson Undivided Coalition plans to keep fighting for changes, regardless of the legal outcomes.

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