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Restoring Democracy: The Federal Consent Decree Fairness Act

Monday April 2006


The Honorable Lamar Alexander United States Senator, Tennessee

From education to prison management, elected officials around the country are laboring under onerous and expensive court-mandated consent decrees.

Historically, democratically elected state and local officials have been responsible for directing public policy to address social needs. Increasingly, activists and reformers have sought to bypass these individuals and have used consent decrees to restrain their freedom of action.

The result has been an unhappy marriage of court power and public policy that hampers flexibility in the delivery of public services and undermines democratic accountability. Senator Lamar Alexander has been at the forefront of Congressional efforts to allow governments to modify or vacate court consent decrees more easily, so that policy choices can be restored to the public officials elected to make them.