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1 lawsuit over appointment of Mississippi judges dismissed, another case still alive

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi judge has dismissed one lawsuit that challenges a new law dealing with appointment of judges in the majority-Black capital city of Jackson and the surrounding county, but a separate lawsuit remains alive in federal court.

In the ruling Monday, Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas wrote that appointing judges does not violate the Mississippi Constitution.

Three Jackson residents testified to Thomas last week that the new law tramples their rights because most Mississippi judges are elected.

Thomas wrote that a 1989 state law allows appointment of judges in some circumstances and that “disappointment and frustration with the legislative process does not create a judicial right to relief.”

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“While the Court is sympathetic to the Plaintiffs’ feelings, it cannot find that the same constitutes irreparable harm,” Thomas wrote.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they will appeal Thomas' dismissal of the case and his decision last week to remove Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph as a defendant.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed laws last month to expand state policing in the capital city of Jackson, establish a court with an appointed judge in part of Jackson and authorize four appointed judges to work alongside the four elected judges in Hinds County Circuit Court.

Members of the majority-white and Republican-led Legislature who pushed for the changes said they were trying to curb crime in the capital city. Local residents protested that state officials were usurping power in Jackson and Hinds County, which are majority-Black and governed by Democrats.

The national NAACP, its Mississippi chapter and its local chapter filed a federal lawsuit hours after Reeves signed the new laws. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate temporarily blocked the appointment of four judges for Hinds County Circuit Court. Wingate set a May 22 hearing to consider extending his order.