Mississippi: House approves plan to let Chief Justice pick judges to hear challenges to constitutionality of state statutes; fifth state to consider changing the way state statues are held unconstitutional

In what is becoming something of a trend the Mississippi House last week approved a bill to provide challenges to state statutes or involving state officers must go to judge(s) chosen by the Chief Justice. News reports indicate this is an effort to bypass judges in Hinds County, where the capital is located.

HB 710 as approved by the House provides that the Circuit Courts alone will have jurisdiction over all complaints filed against the state and its offices, agencies, employees, elected or appointed officials, etc.

When such a complaint is filed the Circuit Court clerk is to notify the Chief Justice, the Governor, the Attorney General, and the House and Senate leaders. The Chief Justice is then personally to designate a judge to hear the matter from a list the Chief Justice had previously compiled. The judge may then designate any Circuit Court in the state for the location of the hearing and trial.

The bill is similar to those discussed in Texas, North Carolina (enacted), Michigan, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin that changes the venue for challenges to state laws and, at least in some cases, gives the state’s Chief Justice the power to personally pick the judge to hear the case.

HB 710 is now pending in the Senate Judiciary A Committee.