Term limits are one of most popular political issues of the day. Most think of achieving this with a Constitutional Amendment, but there is another way: with nullification.
Before 1995, states were legislating term limits. Then in Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779,(1995) in a 5 to 4 split decision, the Supreme Court ruled term limits unconstitutional. Their reasoning was that since the U.S. Constitution imposed some qualifications on Congress people, such as age restrictions and citizen requirements. The states could not legislate additional requirements.
In a well reasoned and clear statement for federalism, Clarence Thomas dissented with, “It is ironic that the Court bases today’s decision on the right of the people to ‘choose whom they please to govern them’.” Under our Constitution, there is only one State whose people have the right to ‘choose whom they please’ to represent Arkansas in Congress… Nothing in the Constitution deprives the people of each State of the power to prescribe eligibility requirements for the candidates who seek to represent them in Congress. The Constitution is simply silent on this question. And where the Constitution is silent, it raises no bar to action by the States or the people.”
Justice Thomas is correct. There is no real Constitutional basis for this split Supreme Court ruling. It is the ruling on the whims and political view of five lawyers. At the end of this Blog are states that still have federal term limits in their laws and/or constitution. As best I can determine, these states still have these statutes on the record. If the governor or Secretary of State deems that in Inc. v. Thornton, the U.S Supreme Court does not have the authority to make their ruling, then they could prevent these multi-term federal politicians from appearing on the ballot. A grass roots effort in these states might persuade one of them to do this. Continue Reading →