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City of Houston

Judge’s Ruling In Houston Term Limit Case Means It’s Now Only About Ballot Language

Both sides declare victory as the judge rules against the city’s motions to dismiss the case on technicalities but sides with the city on the merits.


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333rd District Court
Florian Martin
Lawyers for the city of Houston and for the plaintiffs challenging last November’s term limit referendum make their arguments in the 333rd Harris County District Court.

After just one hearing in a Harris County district court, the term limits case goes into the second round.

Assigned Judge Randy Clapp ruled against the city's motions to dismiss the case on technicalities — the city's main argument was that the plaintiff failed to serve them in time.

But the judge sided with the city on the merits.

That ruling ends the case in the district court, and the parties are now getting ready for the appeals process.

The plaintiffs claim the city tried to mislead voters by using deceptive ballot language. They say voters were made to believe that they were voting for shortening terms for elected officials when they were actually extending them.

The judge had no issue with the language, but Andy Taylor, who represents an intervenor on the plaintiff's side, said that's OK.

He said he reached his goal of avoiding a lengthy court battle on technicalities.

"It doesn't matter how this trial court rules on the merits, yes or no," he said. "What matters is that he ruled on the merits, so now we can go to the appellate court and get a decision that will bind everybody."

Mayor Sylvester Turner acknowledged that the city's claim of not being served correctly didn't convince the judge.

"But the key thing is that he said that the language was valid, that the language was clear," he said.

Taylor, who joined the lawsuit last month, has a pretty good track record against the city. Just last year, he was on the winning side of three different Texas Supreme Court decisions against Houston.