On May 26, 1998, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that the term limits amendment approved by Michigan voters was Constitutional as applied to State legislators. The opponents of term limits had appealed the decision of the Wayne County Circuit Court which had granted summary disposition in favor of the limits and had sought leave to appeal directly to the Supreme Court without going to the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court in a 7-0 decision affirmed the decision of the Circuit Court in lieu of granting the appeal.

This decision fairly well decides the issue for once and for all as to the Michigan amendment unless the Supreme Court of the United States reviews the issue -- a highly unlikely occurrence.

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JUNE 1998


On Friday, April 17, the second term limits case (this one filed in Wayne County) was dismissed by Judge Michael Sapala. This case was filed by the same group of Wayne State University law professors who filed the first case in Federal Court on behalf of constituents in the districts of two Detroit Democrats.

Sapala said in his 21-page opinion that the ballot language was very clear and people knew what they were voting for.

The ruling will be appealed by the opponents of term limits.

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On Thursday, May 14, 1998, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Federal District Court's dismissal of the term limit suit brought by opponents of term limits. The Court ruled that the Constitution grants states the authority to limit candidates.

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MARCH 1998

On Thursday, February 5, 1998, the Hon. Patrick Duggan of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled in a 21 page opinion that term limits were legal. The Court said that there is no guaranteed right in the U.S. Constitution to vote for a specific candidate, although voters do have the right to establish qualifications for officeholders.

Robert Sedler, a Wayne State University professor who filed the suit on behalf of the Detroit constituents of two Democrat House members now serving their last terms declined to comment on the speculation that the suit was being funded by the Democrats. He indicated that an appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati was likely.

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In August a group headed by a Wayne State University law professor, John Mogk, filed two suits to overturn term limits. While no legislators are named parties in this suit, two Detroit Democrats, Mary Lou Parks and Ilona Varga, have indicated their support. Mogk says that he thinks the U.S. Supreme Court will throw out term limits for life but say yes to limits that permit officeholders to come back at some point.

The suits are pending in Federal Court in Detroit before U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan and in the Genesee County Circuit Court before Judge Archie Hayman.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan has turned down a request to block Michigan's term limits until the case is resolved. On October 28, he set a strict time limit to hear the case with a decision possible as early as December. The Judge ordered the parties to agree to the facts and to file briefs by the end of November. In many cases, the parties are then allowed to respond to each other's briefs and then a date is scheduled for oral argument. While it is conceivable that the opinion could come down by December, it is more likely that it will occur after the first of the year.

Rep. Tom Alley announced on October 31st that he may run for another term in the House or a new term in the Senate when his current term ends. He had publicly expressed anger during the evening session of October 30, 1997 calling the Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality "arrogant", according to an article in the Iosco County News, (Nov. 5, 1997). Alley is quoted as saying "The DNR and DEQ have indicated their reluctance to work on projects in districts with term limited legislators on a number of recent occasions. They have refused to let legislators meet with key departmental staff to discuss issues of importance to the state without their lobbyists and top-level administrators present."

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JUNE 1997

WHAT'S GOING ON WITH TERM LIMITS??? Betsy DeVos, State Party Chair, advises that there is scuttlebutt in Lansing that the Democrats are considering a legal challenge to the Term Limits Constitutional Amendment which was passed by 58.8% of the Michigan voters. There is some thought that some Democrat will engineer this challenge in the Wayne County Circuit Court where Judge James Rashid has a practice of assigning all election cases to himself rather than using a blind draw system which is usual. Rep. Hertel denies that the Democrats are planning on bringing such a suit.

Tom Alley, who was interviewed on Off the Record on PBS during the week of June 8, said that he thought someone might file to overturn term limits, but that it would not be him. He said he has no plans for seeking re-election regardless of the outcome of any challenge. Alley believes that term limits will be a disaster because of the loss of institutional memory and the danger that the government will be run by lobbyists and bureaucrats. While Alley may be right about the problem, there could be another solution. If the State legislature would pass power back to local governments and stop passing laws that give the Bureaucrats a chance for more control over people's lives, maybe the problem would be solved. What do you think? Send your comments by pressing the "Send e-mail" button below.

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