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Legislature begins process of redrawing state chancery, circuit court districts

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Legislature begins process of redrawing state chancery, circuit court districts

Feb 21, 2024 | 2:38 pm ET
By Taylor Vance
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Legislature begins process of redrawing state chancery, circuit court districts
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Photo courtesy of Mississippi Today

The Legislature last week took its first substantive step of redrawing Mississippi’s circuit and chancery court districts, potentially altering the composition of how justice is administered around the state.

The House Judiciary B Committee and the Senate Judiciary A Committee convened on Feb. 13 to discuss what metrics Capitol leaders would use to redraw the 20 chancery districts and the 23 circuit districts. 

The current districts have largely remained unchanged for decades, but Senate Judiciary A Committee Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, told reporters that he intends to use population shifts in each district and the number of active cases in each district to determine if counties need to be added or taken away from certain districts. 

“Would we be doing our job if the status quo was kept in place? I would say no,” Wiggins told reporters. “For too long, politics has entered into this process, and we are relying on the data. And that’s what you saw today — was the data and what it says.” 

Senate Minority Leader Derrick Simmons, D-Greenville, implied at the hearing that he would object to the Legislature enacting major changes to the districts and preferred to leave the current configuration intact.

State law mandates the process must be completed by the fifth year after the U.S. Census is administered. The last census was performed in 2020, meaning the Legislature’s deadline is 2025. 

If the Legislature does not redraw the districts by the deadline, state law requires the chief justice of the state Supreme Court to modify the districts.

Chancery courts, commonly called a “court of equity,” deal with estate, custody, and constitutional issues while circuit courts primarily deal with major civil and criminal cases. The chancery court system contains 52 judges, while the circuit court contains 57 judges, according to the Mississippi Supreme Court’s annual report.