By Michael Goldberg
A federal appeals court has temporarily delayed Mississippi officials from creating a state-run court in part of the majority-Black capital city of Jackson starting on Monday.
The ruling came just before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate dismissed requests to block the new court in a ruling filed late Sunday.
The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary administrative stay, blocking the court's creation until at least Jan. 5. The decision followed a request from the NAACP.
“The NAACP stands firm in our belief that this legislation is inherently undemocratic," NAACP spokesperson Alicia Mercedes said in a statement Monday. "We will continue to do everything in our power to fight for Jackson residents’ rights to have control over their own institutions and live free from state-driven discrimination.”
Michelle Williams, chief of staff for Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, responded to the decision by pointing to a statement she issued Sunday that said the state would continue to defend the law and “perform our duties to help protect the people of Jackson from stifling, suffocating crime that plagues the city. ”
The court was created by the majority-white and Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature. Jackson is governed by Democrats. Attorneys for the civil rights organization had sued on behalf of several Jackson residents, saying the new court undermines democracy because local voters or local elected officials won’t choose its judge or prosecutors.
Under a law signed by Republican Gov. Tate Reeves in the spring, the new court was expected to have jurisdiction in a part of Jackson that includes state government buildings and some residential and shopping areas. Reeves and legislators who support the new court say it is part of an effort to control crime in Jackson — a city that has had more than 100 homicides for each of the past three years, in a population of about 150,000.
Even though the 5th Circuit blocked Mississippi officials from creating the state-run court in Jackson on Monday, attorneys for the state had already said that the court did not yet have a workable place to operate and still needed to hire staff.
The 5th Circuit's order said the court had not developed an opinion on the merits of any issue.
Associated Press reporter Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this report.