• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court struck down an amendment to the Arkansas constitution that imposed term limits for members of both houses of Congress.

By 1995 Arkansas and twenty-two other states had adopted limits on the terms of office for members of Congress. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that such limits were unconstitutional. In his sixty-one-page opinion for the Court, Justice John Paul Stevens Stevens, John Paul;United States Term Limits v. Thornton[United States Term Limits v. Thornton] observed that term limits were qualifications and that neither states nor Congress was authorized to add to the qualifications for representatives found in Article I of the U.S. Constitution. Allowing individual states to craft their own qualifications would “erode the structure envisioned by the framers.” Therefore, a constitutional amendment was the only acceptable way to obtain the desired limits. The dissenters emphasized two points: states’ rights and silence in the Constitution concerning the issue.

Congress, qualifications for

Constitutional amendment process

Palmer v. Thompson

States’ rights and state sovereignty

Categories: History