Sunday, December 04, 2005

Term Limit Lawsuit

The details of the lawsuit filed by three Nebraska state senators have been made public. Their best hope appears to be an argument that the law has an ambiguity that no one noticed, even though it's been in effect since 2000: "The argument is drawn from one sentence of the three-sentence term limits law crafted by a national group that advocates term limits. It defines a term of service in office as anything 'more than a half-term' -- or just more than two years.

'Because ineligibility occurs when any senator in his or her second term has served 'more than half of a term,' approximately 20 of Nebraska%u2019s current state senators ... are right now vulnerable to disqualification as they are beyond the middle of their second term,' says the lawsuit crafted by Lincoln attorney Alan Peterson. 'By the literal terms of the (term limits law), they appear to be ineligible even to finish out their present four-year terms.'"
Well now we know why they didn't file the suit earlier. This interpretation seems to be a stretch to us. If it's so ambigous, why didn't anyone see it that way before? They also included the 14th Amendment argument, but that is considered unlikely to prevail:
"In at least two other states, there have been challenges that argued term limits violated the U.S. Constitution, but the challenges failed in federal circuit courts.

Arguments related to the half-term language in the Nebraska lawsuit may be a 'new wrinkle' in term limits court challenges, said Michael Pitts, a visiting professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who specializes in election law.

'Federal constitutional challenges to term limits have not been successful in the past, and this will probably be an uphill battle,' Pitts said of the lawsuit.

'Courts have not found term limits constituting a severe burden on either voters or candidates.'

[Neb. Sec. of State] Gale did not criticize the court challenge, calling it part of the Democratic process."
That "Democratic process" seems to be a bit of a Freudian slip on the part of the Lincoln Journal Star. Of course Gale said, "democratic process," but trying to find a court to overturn the results of elections does seem to be part of the Democratic process these days.

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