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  1. Case CON Law 


    Case U.S. Term Limit


Subject Law and governance Pages 3 Style APA


U.S Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton

514 U.S. 779 (1995)

Facts of Case

The state constitution was voted for amendment by the people of Arkansas so as to impose term limits on the people who would be elected to Congress. In Ark. Const. amend. LXXIII, the people who were vying for office in the House of Representatives were limited to a maximum of three terms, while those in Senate would have only two terms maximum. This amendment was challenged by the respondents, and the trial court help that the process was unconstitutional. Also, the State Supreme Court upheld the ruling arguing that the states have no authority to make any changes to, add to, or even reject the requirements of the clauses, U.S. Const. Art. I, § 2, Art. I, § 3, cl. 7.

Procedural History

The amendment 73 to the Arkansas Constitution denied all federal Congressional candidates who had already served three terms in the U.S House and two terms in Senate, access to ballot (U.S Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 1995). Immediately after the adoption of the amendment at the general election which was carried out in November, 1992, Bobbie Hill who was a member of the League of Women Voters sued the court with the aim of having the amendment invalidated. She argued that these new restrictions meant that unwarranted expansions of the qualifications set for membership in the Congress as stipulated in the Constitution in Article 1, section 2 and 3 were being introduced. Another critical factor to this issue relates to the 17th Amendment which transfers the power to select U. S. Senators from the state legislature to the people.

Legal Issue(s)

Aside from the qualifications indicated in the Constitution, is it constitutional to also impose other rules and requirements for the election of individuals into Congress?

Statement of Rule

In the U.S. Constitution, the Tenth Amendment does not reserve any rights for the States that were not stipulated within the original powers. Hence, the power to add new qualifications is not considered to be within these original powers of the state.


Policy (if there is any)

No specific policy applies in the current case.


Arkansas argued that the Tenth Amendment and the reserved powers principles allows the states to add specific qualifications which all Congressional candidates must meet. However, the Supreme Court found that such power to add qualifications was not considered to be within the original set of State powers (U.S Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 1995). That is because there were no such rights before the Constitution was enacted. In addition, the Supreme Court noted that the Framers intended that the Constitution be used as the main source of qualifications for Congressional members. Hence, the State was divested of any powers to add any qualifications.

Arkansas argued that the amendment was not a qualification, but instead an acceptable use of the power of State to regulate elections as stipulated under Article 1. The Supreme Court found that Article 1 only gave the States power to create procedural regulations, and not to interfere with candidates.


It was held that it is not constitutional to add qualifications for Congress elections. Hence, the judgment was affirmed by a 5-4 vote. The majority and minority highlighted different views of the character of the federal structure indicated in the Constitution.

Concurrence (if any)

There exists a relationship between the people of the Nation and the National Government. Hence, the States have no right to interfere with this relationship (U.S Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 1995). Therefore, the Arkansas amendment tries to interfere with that relationship, which is why it is unconstitutional.

Dissents (if any)

The States can exercise all powers not withheld from them by the Constitution (U.S Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 1995). Hence, since the Constitution has not made an attempt to address the issue of prescribing eligibility requirements for all the federal officials, the State can retain that power.





U.S Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779 (1995)

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