What’s missing in Mississippi today? Any sense of justice. In its place, at least for now, is a persistent sense of cowardice, injustice and even evidence of malignancy for forms of political corruption that have overtaken too many public officials and entire bodies of government. Whether one takes the time to read the MS Supreme Court’s decision handed down Friday in the case of In Re Initiative Measure No. 65 (Butler v. Watson) or whether one is an attorney or not, some things are easy to see. One of the oldest tricks in the book among political operatives and crisis management or public relations firms is that if you want to bury a story, release it on a Friday afternoon. The Justices are creatures of habit. Case in point: going back over the past five years, we see that in 260 weeks of publishing their opinions, the Court published their opinions on Thursdays in all, but three instances. The Justices decided to kill medical Cannabis on a Friday, this past week, and in so doing they also declared that Mississippi’s initiative process was broken beyond repair as well. Wow!

Who saw this coming, one might ask? Well, that’s a difficult question to answer with any precision, but it’s safe to say that the number is a vanishingly small one. Start with the Justices themselves who all knew, necessarily, as they were the ones debating it. Their law clerks and perhaps a few other supporting staff knew, to be sure, but then who else? Well, we all better hope and pray that the number didn’t expand too far beyond that because if it did, then something is rotten in the state of Denmark. [Note: There actually is a Denmark, MS, but that’s not where this story unfolds.]. If you’re looking to beef up your numbers outside of the Courthouse walls, however, you’ve got an arduous task ahead of you. Consider that only two prior ballot initiatives in Mississippi history have ever passed during the 29 year lifespan of the Constitutional provision that created ballot initiatives: Initiative 27, which created voter ID laws, and Initiative 31, which prevented certain kinds of eminent domain action. This part is important – the entire state Democratic Party apparatus sought to undo Initiative 27 and ruled out a Constitutional challenge as being doomed to failure. Conversely, the state Republican Party apparatus reached the same conclusion when they ruled out such a court challenge to the Constitutionality of Initiative 31. Setting aside for a moment the question of whether either party should have been considering pursing an effort to overturn the will of the voters, the point is that in recent history, no serious politician on either side of the aisle thought a Constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court on the very same grounds that Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler stood the slimmest chance of success. So can we count Mayor Butler among those who saw this coming? I kind of doubt it. We can spend more time on this later, but something I suspect, but can’t prove is that she probably thought of it more as a stalling tactic to enable the legislature the time it needed to overwrite or undo the will of the people.

And to me, that’s really what this is all about. I’ll have more to say on all of this in subsequent installments. For now, I just want to say that any practicing attorney, like myself, has literally read thousands ofc out decisions. Some are unanimous, others are merely lopsided, and others are split in various ways. The reader will find interesting aspects to most cases that are decided at the Supreme Court level whether at the state or federal levels. One might assume that outcomes at that level of jurisprudence have been vetted and reasoned so carefully that the outcomes really must be just. If so, you’d be naive. Decisions are all over the map and for more nuanced and complex reasons than I could possibly consider here. What I can say, though, is that whatever the outcome, I want to be throughly challenged by arguments on both sides and if the decision leaves me feeling conflicted either ultimately or just temporarily as I’m reading through one side or the other. Alas, that didn’t happen here. And when it doesn’t, one can be left feeling raw or wronged or in this case, just outraged. The only other option is that the outcome is so obvious or uncontroversial that it couldn’t have justifiably gone any other way. Well, in this case, it should have gone the other way and the majority by a 6 to 3 margin had to contort itself and pretzel its argument to justify this injustice.

In the process, they found a way to declare the entire ballot initiative mechanism in Mississippi is broken beyond repair. Despite what the “I hate to say I told you so” crowd within the legislature is claiming now I’m not willing to grant immunity from blame or culpability for this mess to any of the three branches of government in the Magnolia State. The legislature, after all, from 2003 to 2015, made at least six unsuccessful attempts to amend section 273 to reflect the new reality of four congressional district and avert just this sort of miscarriage. Subsequently, they failed and failed again to pass a statute establishing a medical Cannabis program and they failed again to get it done right earlier this very year. And whether you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision from Friday, it’s impossible to overlook the strength of the voters’ intent when they rallied behind a 74% favorable decision supporting medical Cannabis. Courts considering Constitutional decisions regularly probe the legislative intent when looking to discern the motivations behind a given decision of the legislative body. But this time, the people stepped in to act for a legislature too paralyzed by fear, arrogance or ignorance to deliver what it has been so obvious that the governed have demanded. Their “legislative intent” or “civic intent,” for lack of a better term, was totally dismissed.

In the balancing of interests, the needs, the wants and the will of the people was assigned very little value despite the lip service of the majority. And so, sadly the long lineage and gut wrenching reality of elite control of Dixie is that of persistent disdain. The elites have again spoken forcefully against self governance and against any meaningful extension of the franchise to the overwhelming democratic majority. They dismissed the case on an odd technicality that could have and should have been repaired, but that didn’t need to be in order to grant to the people that which would rightly be theirs in any properly functioning democracy. The Justices themselves in footnote #3 wrote, “We note here that the state of Mississippi has not adopted a congressional districting plan since 1991. It has failed, over the last twenty years, to account for the loss of a congressional district and has never adopted a four district plan. The present four-district plan was adopted by a three-judge panel of the federal United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi when the Legislature failed to act.” Next up is last up, Governor Tate Reeves. If he doesn’t call a special session to address the medical Cannabis question, then all three branches will have failed the patients and the people of Mississippi. I’m not holding my breath, but I’m also not giving up yet either. After all, if you’re in with the 74% and you still can’t have your say, you’d be a fool to walk away and give up. Our demands merely have to grow louder and more persistent. Now is no time to quit.