Attorney Carlos Moore, AG’s office argue over court role in Mississippi flag dispute

March 25, 2016 in News

Carlos Moore File photo/Gulflive.com

Carlos Moore
File photo/Gulflive.com

JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — Attorneys are arguing about whether a federal court has the power to decide if the Confederate battle emblem should be removed from the Mississippi flag.

The state attorney general’s office, arguing on behalf of Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, said flag design should be decided through the political process, not by a judge.

Moss Point native Carlos Moore, now a Grenada private attorney who sued the governor over the flag, said the federal court has standing to decide questions his suit raises. Moore is asking U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves to declare the flag an unconstitutional vestige of slavery.

Reeves ordered both sides to file arguments over whether the federal court is the proper place to consider arguments about design of the last state flag with the rebel emblem — a red field with a blue X topped by 13 white stars. The judge has not said when he will rule.

If Reeves rules that the court lacks standing to decide questions about the flag, he could dismiss the lawsuit. If he decides the court has standing, he could hold a hearing for attorneys to make more arguments.

The Mississippi flag and the public display of other Confederate symbols have been debated since June, when nine black worshippers were massacred at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The man charged in the slayings had previously posed in online photos holding a rebel flag.

Since the Charleston attack, several Mississippi cities and counties, and some universities, have stopped flying the state flag. However, leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature said they couldn’t get consensus this year on bills that would have either redesigned the flag or taken state money away from public entities that refuse to fly the current banner. Moore filed his lawsuit days after bills died.

In arguments Monday, Moore wrote: “The question before the court is whether the inclusion of a symbol of the Confederate States of America in the official state flag of Mississippi is a badge, incident, or vestige of slavery that operates to deprive plaintiff (Moore) of the equal protection of state law, by suggesting that he is a second-class citizen when he enters public property on personal or professional business.”

Douglas Miracle, a special assistant attorney general, wrote that Reeves should follow the political question doctrine, “the admonition that courts not adjudicate matters of generalized grievances more appropriately addressed in the representative branches.”

Miracle also wrote that the lawsuit fails to show Moore has suffered a particular harm because of the flag.

“Plaintiff’s alleged injury — fear for his safety — is precisely the type of speculation and conjecture the Supreme Court has rejected,” Miracle wrote.

Moore wrote that the flag creates a hostile work environment for him in courthouses where it flies, and that “anxiety has created more stress in my life and has probably contributed to or caused the exacerbation of medical ailments, including but not limited to hypertension, insomnia and abnormal EKGs.”