A federal judge temporarily blocked the controversial House Bill 1020 from becoming law Friday.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate granted the motion in a lawsuit brought by the NAACP, which would stop Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Michael Randolph from appointing four temporary special judges to the Hinds County Circuit Court, according to court documents.
The NAACP had asked Wingate to block the chief justice from appointing judges under the law while HB 1020 is being challenged in court. This is the second time the NAACP has asked for a temporary restraining order on the law passed during the 2023 legislative session, according to court records.
“The urgency of this renewed motion is acute – Defendant Randolph could at any moment make the appointments that violate Plaintiffs’ rights, and his counsel was unable to give any assurances that he would not do so,” attorneys for the NAACP wrote Thursday.
The temporary restraining order will be in place until a May 22 hearing at the federal courthouse in Jackson. The law is scheduled to go into effect July 1.
HB 1020 has faced opposition from Jackson and Hinds County residents and lawmakers since it was filed. They have voiced concerns that the law would give power to white state officials to appoint judges and prosecutors, rather than having them elected by residents of the majority-Black city. The law would also expand the state Capitol Police into Jackson, which has its own police department.
Gov. Tate Reeves signed HB 1020 on April 21, and within days the NAACP’s lawsuit and another lawsuit brought by the Mississippi Center for Justice, the ACLU of Mississippi, the McArthur Justice Center and the Legal Defense Educational Fund were filed.
Wingate’s order comes a day after Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas held a hearing on the lawsuit filed in state court challenging HB 1020. Last week, Thomas issued a temporary restraining order stopping the enactment of the law, and is expected next week to decide whether to move forward with an injunction.
Attorneys for the NAACP cited developments in the state lawsuit as a reason to ask for a temporary restraining order blocking Randolph from appointing temporary judges, according to its Thursday court filing.
The state lawsuit argues that the appointment of temporary judges by the chief justice violates the state constitution and Hinds County residents’ right to vote for their judges. The suit also argues that some tax money will be diverted from Jackson and placed in a fund supporting the Capitol Complex Improvement District projects.
Randolph was previously a defendant in the state lawsuit, but on Thursday Thomas dismissed him and Hinds County Circuit Clerk Zack Wallace.
Thomas also allowed the plaintiffs to add two new defendants: Attorney General Lynn Fitch and Gov. Reeves.