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Former Lieutenant Governor to File Suit Against Term Limits

February 22, 1999
By: Chris Pelikan
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A former Missouri legislative leader of a past era is planning on filing a lawsuit to challenge Missouri's legislative term limits.

The lawsuit is being drafted by St. Louis Attorney Ken Rothman. He served as Missouri's lieutenant governor from 1981-1985 and as House speaker for two legislative sessions in the mid to late 1970's. He left political life in 1985 after defeat in his campaign against John Ashcroft for governor.

"I think term limits are a knee-jerk reaction that deprive us of many good leaders," Rothman said in explaining his interest in the case.

Rothman served 18 years in Missouri's House -- ten years longer than would be allowed under the current term-limits restriction.

Rothman, a senior partner in the St. Louis based law firm of Rothman and Sokol, confirmed that he has been in contact with several Missouri legislators who could be possible parties in the case.

"We're looking at litigation and are in the process of working on it now," Rothman said.

Rothman said his firm has yet to decide whether to file the suit in federal or state court. He also added that his firm is planning on working with a Kansas City based law firm in the litigation.

Rothman confirmed that he had secured several legislators through whom he planned on filing. However Rothman declined to reveal their identities or provide other details until the lawsuit it filed.

"I don't care to disclose our strategy at this time, as we continue to fine tune it," Rothman said.

Rep. Rita Days, D-St. Louis County, confirmed she was one of the legislators contacted about filing the lawsuit -- although she declined to participate in the suit because of costs.

The constitutional restriction on legislative terms was passed by Missouri voters in 1992. Missouri had it's first term-limit victim last year, when Sen. Bill McKenna, then the Senate's president pro tem, was blocked from seeking re-election.

This year, six proposals have been filed by legislators to repeal or alter legislative terms. Since term limits are in the constitution, any change approved by the legislature would require statewide voter approval.