Apr 24, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Mississippi faces civil rights lawsuits on state policing, appointing judges

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on June 30, 2020, in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo: Rogelio V. Solis-Pool/Getty Images

Mississippi is facing two civil rights lawsuits after Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed laws Friday expanding state policing and allowing some judges to be appointed.

Driving the news: The NAACP filed a lawsuit Monday accusing Mississippi's government of violating its own constitution by allowing judges to be appointed in Hinds County, rather than having residents elect them.

  • Another lawsuit filed in federal court by the NAACP Friday argues that "separate and unequal policing" will return to Jackson with the expansion of a state-run police department.

Catch up quick: Last week, Reeves signed a bill (SB 2343) expanding the jurisdiction of state police in Jackson.

  • He signed another law ( HB 1020) authorizing the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to appoint four judges to work alongside other elected circuit court judges in Hinds County. The governor also signed a bill establishing a lower court with an appointed judge.

The big picture: "Taken together, the two bills represent a state takeover of Jackson, MS," the NAACP said in a statement

  • The laws target Jackson’s majority-Black residents on the basis of race, the civil rights organization argued, per the complaint.

Details: The new policing law will "bring the entire predominantly Black city of Jackson under control of the state-run Capitol Police," the NAACP said.

  • It will also "significantly restrict" the ability of Mississippi residents to protest in and around buildings considered property of the state, they added.
  • The other legislation will create a new court with an "unelected judge," the organization said.

What they're saying: "Governor Reeves cannot be allowed to treat the residents of the city of Jackson like second-class citizens," Derrick Johnson, the national president of the NAACP, said on Twitter Monday.

  • Reeves responded, saying, "Families in Jackson are begging for help restoring law and order to a city that desperately needs it. So, we’re going to do everything we can to help them."
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