U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves, who has handled a number of high-profile civil-rights cases on abortion access, religious freedom and same-sex marriage, will now oversee a race-discrimination lawsuit against a Mississippi sheriff’s office.

The case, in which plaintiffs allege Madison County sheriff’s deputies routinely target African Americans for traffic stops, was reassigned to Reeves, an Obama appointee, following the retirement of Senior U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour Jr.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit in 2017, alleging that the sheriff’s department targeted black communities with tactics such as checkpoints, roadblocks and warrantless home searches.

The ACLU claims that black citizens are nearly five times more likely to be arrested than white people in Madison County, although the county’s population is only 38 percent black.

Barbour, who was overseeing the case, also presided over another highly watched civil-rights lawsuit last year — Dockery v. Hall, which challenges prison conditions at the privately-run East Mississippi Correctional Facility in Meridian. That case has yet to be reassigned.

In a recent ruling handed down in November, Reeves permanently blocked Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. Reeves also struck down a controversial “religious freedom” law the Legislature passed in 2016 as well as the state’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2015.

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Michelle Liu was a 2018 corps member for Report for America, a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms. She covered criminal justice issues across the state from June 2018 until May 2020. Prior to joining the Mississippi Today team, her work appeared in the New Haven Independent.