Tennessee Supreme Court upholds term limits for county commissioners

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - The state Supreme Court upheld term limits for county commissioners in a unanimous ruling issued Wednesday.

The decision came in a case filed by Shelby County commissioners who challenged a two-term limit authorized by voters in 1994 when they passed an amendment to the county government's charter.

Commissioners Walter Bailey, Julian Bolton and Cleo Kirk said the limits violated the Tennessee Constitution.

The court disagreed with the plaintiffs' argument that the constitution banned limiting terms when it specified that members of county legislative bodies be elected to "terms of four years."

"The constitution is the truest expression of the will of the people," Chief Justice William M. Barker wrote in the court's opinion. "Accepting the plaintiffs' position in this case would require us to ignore the fundamental principle of self-government embodied in Article I, section I. This we are not willing to do."

The court expedited its handling of the case, issuing a ruling just eight days after hearing arguments.

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