HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and several city council members were on hand Tuesday in federal court for day one of Fairley v. City of Hattiesburg.
A lawsuit filed in February 2013 names Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the right to vote clause of the Fifteenth Amendment for declaratory and injunctive relief against Hattiesburg Miss., for dilution of African American voting strength in the July 12, 2012 council redistricting plan used to elect the five city councilmen and executive committee members in Hattiesburg.
Other plaintiffs aside from Kenneth Fairley Sr. named in the suit include, D. Franklin Browne, Dennis Henderson, Carlos Wilson, Fred Burns, Charles Bartley, and Clarence Magee.
According to the lawsuit filed, the African American total population of Hattiesburg is 53.90 percent, and is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority of the voting age population in three of the five districts. The suit claims that the white registered voters vote sufficiently as a bloc to enable it to usually defeat the African American citizens' preferred city council candidates in majority white voting age population districts.
During testimony, with Hattiesburg City Council President Kim Bradley on the stand, the plaintiff's attorney Ellis Turnage pointed out specific council meetings in July 2012, where of the five city council votes, three white council members voted for one plan, and the remaining two members, each for a separate one.
Multiple questions of the boundaries of Ward 1 were also addressed, pertaining to what areas of the city they cover, along with the neighborhoods or businesses included.
Throughout the day, questions of the number of students at Southern Mississippi that vote in general elections, versus summer time attendance was addressed.
Turnage also spent majority of Bradley's time on the witness stand questioning him of his education background, where he attended school, and even touched on the make-up of black to white voters in the city of Hattiesburg throughout the years of various elections.
Attorney Jerry Mills, on behalf of the City of Hattiesburg, chose not to question Bradley at this point in the proceedings.
Turnage followed by calling his next witness, Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree to the stand.
Again, majority of the testimony was spent questioning him of his education background, where he attended school, and again touched on the make-up of black to white voters in the city of Hattiesburg throughout the years of various elections, even reaching to DuPree's knowledge of Clyde Kennard attending the University of Southern Mississippi.
Turnage continued to call witnesses into the afternoon.
Fairley filed a similar lawsuit that Federal Judge Keith Starrett ruled in favor of the City of Hattiesburg in 2008.