NAACP Sues Mississippi Governor Over Laws That Expand State Control of Policing in Jackson
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has filed a lawsuit against Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves and other members of the government over two pieces of state law that would expand state influence over policing in the capital city of Jackson. The first law, House Bill 1020, will establish a new court system within the Capitol Complex Improvement District, a state-created district that includes the state Capitol building, downtown, Jackson State University, and nearby neighborhoods and businesses. The judge will be appointed, not elected, by the Republican state chief justice with prosecuting attorneys appointed by the Republican state attorney general to help with low-level cases. The second law, Senate Bill 2343, will expand the state-controlled Capitol Police jurisdiction from its current boundaries around state buildings to almost the entire city. The law enforcement agency will report primarily to state-appointed leadership instead of local officials.
The NAACP sued Governor Reeves after he signed the legislation that allows state authorities to exert more control over law enforcement in Jackson, including by expanding the Capitol Police, which shot four people last year without much public explanation. The NAACP argued that the two measures violate the 14th Amendment by discriminating against the citizens of Jackson, an overwhelmingly Black city, as the state’s government is GOP-controlled and majority white. According to the lawsuit, the newly imposed laws unjustly limit the freedom of Jackson's predominantly Black inhabitants and infringe upon their constitutional rights, preventing them from living as equal and full-fledged members of their community. According to the NAACP's lawsuit, the bill contravenes the 14th Amendment by displaying prejudice against the residents of Jackson, a metropolis with a significant Black community.
Former Attorney General of the United States and Senior Counsel at Covington & Burling L.L.P, Eric H. Holder, Jr., has released a statement in support of the lawsuit. “Once again, the responsibility has fallen on us – Black advocates and citizens – to hold state lawmakers accountable and fight back against this dangerous legislation. I am proud to work collaboratively with the NAACP to force these undemocratic lawmakers to answer for their brazen, historically resonant actions in the public sphere – and in a court of law,” said Holder.
Since January, the legislation has undergone at least four amendments. At a press conference this week, Reeves stated that House Bill 1020 was introduced with good intentions. Frequently, bills that are closely monitored, like the one in question, tend to undergo improvements during the course of the process. There is no need to rewrite the given text as it is already clear and concise. It improved through the process.”
Mississippi state government has been feuding with Jackson leaders for some time. Several bills have been passed by the current state legislature which have strengthened the state's authority over the city. The state assumed authority over the city's utility in February, causing issues for Jackson's water system as the state grappled with providing water and repairing numerous breakdowns in the inadequate infrastructure.
The NAACP argued that the new laws “target Jackson's majority-Black residents on the basis of race for a separate and unequal policing structure and criminal justice system to which no other residents of the State are subjected.” The state’s government is GOP-controlled and majority white. The passing of Mississippi House Bill 1020 and Senate Bill 2343 is a worrisome setback, erasing years of advancement by depriving Jackson citizens of their essential privilege to elect officials through democratic means, weakening the power of the elected leaders, and significantly limiting their freedom of speech under the first amendment. This legislative body has proven that they are uninterested in upholding their sworn oath to protect the constitutional rights of their constituents, including the majority Black residents of Jackson.
The NAACP lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on behalf of the NAACP, the NAACP Mississippi State Conference, the Jackson Branch of the NAACP, and a number of Jackson residents and civil rights activists to challenge the two new Mississippi statutes. If signed, the bill will go into effect on July 1, 2023, barring any lawsuits.
0. “Mississippi governor signs bill expanding state control over Jackson's judicial system and policing” CNN, 21 Apr. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/21/us/jackson-mississippi-judicial-system/index.html
1. “NAACP sues after Mississippi expands control over law enforcement in Jackson” msnNOW, 22 Apr. 2023, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/naacp-sues-after-mississippi-expands-control-over-law-enforcement-in-jackson/ar-AA1abIUq
2. “NAACP Files Lawsuit in Response to Passage of Unconstitutional Legislation in Mississippi” NAACP, 21 Apr. 2023, https://naacp.org/articles/naacp-files-lawsuit-response-passage-unconstitutional-legislation-mississippi
3. “‘This is the last straw': Jackson advocates plan to fight new Miss. law creating unelected court system” Yahoo News, 21 Apr. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/this-is-the-last-straw-jackson-advocates-plan-to-fight-new-miss-law-creating-unelected-court-system-200012519.html
4. “Reeves to make a decision on signing H.B. 1020 ‘over the next 48 hours’” WLBT, 19 Apr. 2023, https://www.wlbt.com/2023/04/19/reeves-make-decision-signing-hb-1020-over-next-48-hours
5. “NAACP Sues Mississippi Governor After Signing New Controversial Law Enforcement Bill” Complex, 22 Apr. 2023, https://www.complex.com/life/naacp-mississippi-governor-law-enforcement-bill