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Bench Memos

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Curbing Consent Decrees



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The Wall Street Journal has an editorial today praising legislation recently introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R.-TN) and Mark Pryor (D.-AR) that would rein in the use of consent decrees to bring state and local institutions (prisons, hospitals, school systems) under the thumb of federal judges for years on end. This is a great idea whose time is overdue.

The legislation was inspired, the Journal reports, by the book Democracy by Decree, written by Ross Sandler and David Schoenbrod of New York Law School. This little gem of a book describes a pattern of the abuse of judicial power that is too little noticed in policymaking circles—and best of all, Sandler and Schoenbrod map a way out of the morass. For a fuller account of the book and the issue it discusses, you can see my review of it here. Should the Alexander-Pryor bill pass, Schoenbrod and Sandler may deserve as much credit as the senators themselves.



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