Text: H.R.4041 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)All Bill Information (Except Text)

There is one version of the bill.

Text available as:

Shown Here:
Introduced in House (11/01/2007)


110th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 4041


To amend chapter 111 of title 28, United States Code, to limit the duration of Federal consent decrees to which State and local governments are a party, and for other purposes.


IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

November 1, 2007

Mr. Blunt (for himself, Mr. Cooper, Mr. Aderholt, Mr. Akin, Mrs. Blackburn, Mr. David Davis of Tennessee, Mr. Lincoln Davis of Tennessee, Mr. Duncan, Mr. Everett, Mr. Gordon of Tennessee, Mr. Paul, Mr. Poe, Mr. Smith of Texas, Mr. Tanner, and Mr. Wamp) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


A BILL

To amend chapter 111 of title 28, United States Code, to limit the duration of Federal consent decrees to which State and local governments are a party, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Federal Consent Decree Fairness Act”.

SEC. 2. Findings.

Congress finds that:

(1) Consent decrees are for remedying violations of requirements of Federal law, and they should not be used to advance any policy extraneous to that purpose.

(2) Consent decrees are also for protecting the party or class facing injury and should not be expanded to apply to parties not involved in the litigation.

(3) In structuring consent decrees, courts should take into account the interests of State and local governments in managing their own affairs.

(4) Consent decrees should be structured and administered to give due deference to the policy judgments of State and local officials, and their successors, as to how to obey the law.

(5) Whenever possible, courts should not impose consent decrees that require technically complex and evolving policy choices, especially in the absence of judicially discoverable and manageable standards.

(6) Consent decrees should not be unlimited, but should contain an explicit and realistic strategy for ending court supervision.

SEC. 3. Limitation on consent decrees.

(a) In general.—Chapter 111 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

§ 1660. Consent decrees

“(a) Definitions.—In this section, the term ‘consent decree’—

“(1) means any order imposing injunctive or other prospective relief against a State or local government, or a State or local official sued, entered by a court of the United States that is based in whole or part upon the consent or acquiescence of the parties; and

“(2) does not include—

“(A) private settlements agreements;

“(B) any order arising from an action filed against a government official that is unrelated to his or her official duties;

“(C) any order entered by a court of the United States to implement a plan to end segregation of students or faculty on the basis of race, color, or national origin in elementary schools, secondary schools, or institutions of higher education; and

“(D) any order entered in any action—

“(i) filed by the United States or any agency of the United States, except for reporting requirements provided under section 4 of the Federal Consent Decree Fairness Act; or

“(ii) in which 1 State is an adverse party to another State.

“(b) Limitation on duration.—

“(1) IN GENERAL.—A State or local government, or a State or local official who was a party to the consent decree (or the successor to that individual) may file a motion under this section with the court that entered a consent decree to modify or terminate the consent decree upon the earlier of—

“(A) 4 years after a consent decree is originally entered by a court of the United States, regardless if the consent decree has been modified or reentered during that period; or

“(B) in the case of a civil action in which—

“(i) a State or an elected State official is a party, the expiration of the term of office of the highest elected State official who was a party to the consent decree;

“(ii) a local government or elected local government official is a party, the expiration of the term of office of the highest elected local government official who was a party to the consent decree; or

“(iii) the consent to the decree was authorized by an appointed State or local official, upon the expiration of the term of office of the elected official who appointed that State or local official, or the highest elected official in that State or local government; or

“(C) the date otherwise provided by law.

“(2) BURDEN OF PROOF.—

“(A) IN GENERAL.—With respect to any motion filed under paragraph (1), the burden of proof shall be on the party who originally filed the civil action to demonstrate that the denial of the motion to modify or terminate a consent decree or any part of a consent decree is necessary to prevent the violation of a requirement of Federal law that—

“(i) was actionable by such party; and

“(ii) was addressed in the original consent decree.

“(B) FAILURE TO MEET BURDEN OF PROOF.—If a party fails to meet the burden of proof described in subparagraph (A), the court shall terminate the consent decree.

“(C) SATISFACTION OF BURDEN OF PROOF.—If a party meets the burden of proof described in described in subparagraph (A), the court shall ensure that any remaining provisions of the consent decree represent the least restrictive means by which to prevent such a violation.

“(3) RULING ON MOTION.—

“(A) IN GENERAL.—The court shall rule expeditiously on a motion filed under this subsection.

“(B) SCHEDULING ORDER.—Not later than 30 days after the filing of a motion under this subsection, the court shall enter a scheduling order that—

“(i) limits the time of the parties to—

“(I) file motions; and

“(II) complete any required discovery; and

“(ii) sets the date or dates of any hearings determined necessary.

“(C) STAY OF INJUNCTIVE OR PROSPECTIVE RELIEF.—In addition to any other orders authorized by law, the court may stay the injunctive or prospective relief set forth in the consent decree in an action under this subsection if a party opposing the motion to modify or terminate the consent decree seeks any continuance or delay that prevents the court from entering a final ruling on the motion within 180 days of the filing of the motion.

“(c) Other Federal court remedies.—The provisions of this section shall not be interpreted to prohibit a Federal court from entering a new order for injunctive or prospective relief to the extent that it is otherwise authorized by Federal law.

“(d) Available State court remedies.—The provisions of this section shall not prohibit the parties from seeking appropriate relief under State law.”.

(b) Technical and conforming amendment.—The table of sections for chapter 111 of title 28, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:


“1660. Consent decrees.”.

SEC. 4. Department of Justice report.

(a) In general.—Not later than October 1 of each year, the Attorney General shall submit a report to Congress on all consent decrees in which the United States is a party where the consent decrees were entered 4 or more years prior to the date of the report.

(b) Content of reports.—The report required under subsection (a) shall include—

(1) copies of any consent decrees described in subsection (a); and

(2) a written statement by the Attorney General or other agency head explaining—

(A) why each consent decree listed in the report requires continued court supervision; and

(B) any efforts the United States had made to limit the scope or duration of the consent decree.

(c) Preparation of report.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—Federal agencies other than the Department of Justice shall provide the information required in this section to the Attorney General not later than September 1 of each year.

(2) INPUT.—In preparing the report required under subsection (a), the Attorney General or other agency head shall solicit, and include in the report, statements relating to each consent decree from State and local officials who—

(A) support continued court supervision; and

(B) oppose continued court supervision.

(d) Electronic submission.—Copies of consent decrees required by subsection (b)(1)(B) may be submitted in electronic format.

SEC. 5. General Principles.

(a) No effect on other laws relating to modifying or vacating consent decrees.—Nothing in the amendments made by section 3 shall be construed to preempt or modify any other provision of law providing for the modification or vacating of a consent decree.

(b) Further proceedings not required.—Nothing in the amendments made by section 3 shall be construed to affect or require further judicial proceedings relating to prior adjudications of liability or class certifications.

SEC. 6. Effective date.

The amendments made by this Act shall take effect on the date of enactment of this Act and apply to all consent decrees regardless of—

(1) the date on which the order of a consent decree is entered; or

(2) whether any relief has been obtained under a consent decree before the date of enactment of this Act.