Advance Notice: Briefs

Court case to end term limits fails in federal court

By: - January 22, 2021 12:14 pm

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

A lawsuit that challenged Michigan’s legislative term limits was dismissed by a federal court Wednesday.

The bipartisan lawsuit, Kowall et al v Benson, signed by 10 former Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, cites that Michigan’s strict term limits violate the U.S Constitution.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan sided with Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary State Jocelyn Benson, dismissing the case. 

Judge Janet T. Neff dismissed the case, stating that the claims were meritless or barred by a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 1998.  

“Michigan voters took action three decades ago to change our state constitution, and that amendment has now held up twice in a court of law,” Nessel said. “I appreciate the Court’s ruling and review of the case law on this matter, and while the legal challenges have failed, the Michigan Constitution – and term limits for our lawmakers – remain something voters can revisit and amend through lawful means as they deem appropriate.” 

The 1992 amendment, which was approved by 60% of voters, states that legislators are limited to three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate. The governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general are termed out after two four-year terms.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.