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Former Warren Mayor Fouts’ Appeal to Redo November Election Denied

Former Warren Mayor Jim Fouts (Credits: Detroit Free Press)

A recent decision by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit has definitively ruled out a new mayoral election for Warren, Michigan, with James Fouts, the city’s former mayor, removed from contention.

This judgment upholds the U.S. District Court’s prior dismissal of Fouts’ legal challenge against several city and county officials, including Warren City Clerk Sonja Buffa and Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini.

Fouts had argued that his constitutional rights were infringed upon when a 2020 amendment to the city charter, imposing term limits retroactively, prevented him from seeking a fifth term.

Having served as mayor for 16 years, Fouts contended that this amendment was directly aimed at him, effectively barring his candidacy under the new rules which limit city officials to three full terms or twelve years in office, whichever is greater.

Former Warren Mayor Fouts (Credits: The Detroit News)

Despite these claims, the appeals court found no constitutional violation in applying the term limits to Fouts, stating that the amendment’s enforcement did not discriminate against him.

This decision comes after voters in Warren had initially extended the mayoral term limits in 2016, only to revert to stricter term limits in 2020 through a substantial majority vote.

In the city’s November 2023 election, Lori Stone emerged victorious, becoming Warren’s first female mayor, with 53.1% of the vote against George Dimas. Fouts expressed his disappointment in the court’s decision, particularly noting the court’s apparent favor towards term limits despite judges not being subject to such restrictions.

The debate over term limits and their application has also touched other city officials. A separate case involved former City Council President Patrick Green, with current Councilman Gary Boike challenging Green’s eligibility based on the duration of his service. Like Fouts, Green’s situation was scrutinized under the same charter language, affirming the term limit’s application.

Jim Fouts (Credits: The Detroit News)

Fouts also highlighted the court’s refusal to hear oral arguments, except in Macomb County Circuit Court, suggesting that such discussions might have clarified the term limit amendment’s implications.

In response to these and other ambiguities within the city charter, Warren’s City Council has initiated a charter revision process to address and clarify the language affected by successive amendments. Any proposed changes will require voter approval through a charter amendment ballot proposal.

While Fouts remains undecided on further legal challenges or a return to politics, his situation underscores ongoing debates around term limits, governance, and the balance between voter mandates and individual political aspirations.

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