Arlington term limits lawsuit lands back in court

A lawsuit against the city of Arlington regarding term limits for the mayor and city council members is still alive.

Arguments about the suit that requests the term limits election results from 2018 be thrown out landed before the 2nd Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

“It’s an interesting case,” Justice Lee Gabriel said after more than 35 minutes of legal arguments on the case.

She and fellow Justices Wade Birdwell and Dana Womack listened to the lawyers’ arguments.

At issue is a lawsuit filed by Arlington resident Robert Johnson that seeks to toss out the term limit election results, arguing that those who signed were misled into believing that incumbents would be allowed to serve the remainder of their terms.

The civil lawsuit has been dismissed by a lower court already, after the district judge said there was a lack of jurisdiction.

Johnson’s attorney, Andy Taylor of Brenham, is hoping appellate jurists will overturn that decision.

“If you don’t think we got the job done (in the first filing), your honors, we should be able to amend it,” Taylor told the court.

The attorney for the city of Arlington, C. Robert Heath, disagreed.

“I think they do not have the right to replea,” he said.

Arlington voters approved limiting council members and the mayor to three two-year terms by a 63% margin in 2018.

As a result, three incumbents — Kathryn Wilemon, Lana Wolff and Michael Glaspie — weren’t able to seek re-election in May.

The lawsuit, when it was filed months ago, questioned whether two council members, Robert Shepard and Sheri Capehart, could serve the rest of their terms, which end in May 2020, before being term-limited out of office, or if they had to leave office as soon as the term limit proposal was approved by voters.

“They are still there,” Gabriel noted to Taylor.

He acknowledged that, but said there’s always the possibility that some higher power could remove them from office.

Lawyers for the city of Arlington and for two organizers of the successful petition drive, Zack Maxwell and Faith Bussey, have said that’s not the intent of the charter amendment.

Heath noted that Shepard and Capehart will be able to serve out the remainder of their terms.

And he said this lawsuit essentially questions the “validity of an election that has already happened.”

Maxwell’s attorney Warren Norred has called the lawsuit “sham litigation,” saying Johnson is trying to use it as a way to throw out the entire term limits election.

Staff writer Mitch Mitchell contributed to this report.
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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.