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Mississippi legislators have pushed forward a bill to create an inferior court system

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Rep. Christopher Bell, D-Jackson, questions Ways and Means Committee Chairman Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia, regarding legislation that could expand the Capitol Complex Improvement District's boundaries in Jackson, establish a separate court system and enhance the existing Capitol Police force, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, at the Mississippi Capitol, in Jackson.
AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Mississippi’s legislature has advanced a bill that would create an inferior court system in Jackson. This would circumvent the judges elected to serve the Hinds County area.

Kobee Vance

Mississippi legislators have pushed forward a bill to create an inferior court system without elected judges

Current CCID boundaries (Blue) and proposed CCID expanded boundaries (Yellow) Map by @PearlRiverFlow

Bills are being assigned to committees this week as the legislature begins pushing bills through opposite chambers. Among the legislation is House Bill 1020, which would create an inferior court system in a section of Jackson known as the Capitol Complex Improvement District. Cases would be taken up by appointed Judges and prosecutors, and the bill’s authors claim it will help clear a backlog of cases in the Hinds County Courts. Matt Steffey, Professor of Law at the Mississippi College School of Law, says this is very unusual.

“These will be the only judges in the state with the broad jurisdiction that they’ll have and the power that they’ll have. The only DAs in the state with the power that they have, that have not been elected, as required by the Mississippi Constitution,” says Steffey.

This special CCID court would operate concurrently with the Hinds County court system, capable of hearing both criminal and civil cases.

Many elected officials across city, county and state office have voiced concern about this legislation and how it would bypass judges elected by Jackson residents. When the bill was taken up in the House last week, Democratic lawmakers from across the state spoke against it, but the bill passed. Senator David Blount, a Democrat from Jackson, says it’s bad legislation and hopes his chamber will block it.

Blount says “That bill can not be fixed. There are issues where I believe we can find common ground, there are issues where we can compromise and work together. But the notion of an unelected judiciary appointed by people who don’t live here, made up of people who don’t live here, with prosecutors who are appointed that don’t live here, that should be objectionable to every Mississippian.”

There was language originally in the bill that would have required all lawsuits against the State of Mississippi be filed within the proposed CCID court, but that section and many others were taken out in a strike-all amendment on the House Floor.