WARREN – A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit by Warren Mayor Jim Fouts against the City Council. Fouts’ lawsuit may have been his last chance at getting a fifth term leading the city.
Federal Judge George Steeh dismissed Fouts’ lawsuit, which claimed his civil rights were violated because his name was not listed on the August primary ballot.
On Tuesday, Sept. 5, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted the Warren City Council’s motion to dismiss Fouts’ lawsuit. Fouts, who is currently serving his fourth term as Warren mayor, was requesting input from a federal court after local and state courts prohibited him from running for office again this year.
In April, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the city clerk to “immediately disqualify” Fouts for this year’s election after a charter amendment that passed in 2020 established a three-term limit for Warren mayors. Fouts, arguing the charter amendment can’t be applied retroactively — meaning his previous terms shouldn’t be counted — appealed the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court in an effort to get his name on the ballot. The state’s high court denied his request in May.
One week ahead of the city’s primary election, Fouts filed a lawsuit against the City Council in federal court, claiming his civil rights were violated by the term limit ordinance. The mayor asked the federal court to decertify the results from the August primary election and to order a special election be held before the general election, which would include Fouts as a mayoral candidate.
One month after the primary election the U.S. District Court decided that Fouts’ claims could not be substantiated. The court ordered him to dismiss his complaint “in its entirety.”
A statement issued by Fouts’ counsel says he and his lawyers “respectfully disagree” with the U.S. District Court’s decision and plan to appeal the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Fouts has argued throughout the year that the new term limits — which passed with a 68 percent majority in 2020 — should not apply to his already 15 years in office as Warren mayor. The ordinance took effect at the beginning of the mayor’s fourth term.
A Macomb County Circuit Court judge initially ruled in March that Fouts could run this year, after the City Council sued him over his intention to run for a fifth term. But the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned that decision in April.
The Warren city commissioner, election commission and city clerk appealed the appellate court’s decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, but that appeal was denied.
After the state Supreme Court denied his appeal, Fouts argued that he has a “First Amendment right to run” for office and said the case should be considered at the federal level. He argued his federal constitutional rights “should supersede” the Council’s enforcement of the charter amendment that passed in 2020, calling the language vague and unclear. But the Court of Appeals said the language in the amendment was not ambiguous.
The appellate court also cleared up the “retroactive vs. prospective” concern in April, saying the charter amendment is in effect for the 2023 election, which would bar Fouts from being able to run.