Document Type

Court Brief

Publication Date

1-19-2016

Abstract

QUESTIONS PRESENTED Litigation regarding the legal responsibilities of large institutions, such as schools or prisons, is frequently resolved by consent decree. The widespread use of such consent decrees regularly gives rise to inter-related disputes about how to interpret provisions of those decrees, and about when the decrees themselves have been satisfied and may thus be dissolved. In the instant case the Fifth Circuit, expressly disagreeing with the standards applied in the Sixth and Ninth Circuits, interpreted in a narrow manner, and then ordered dissolution of, key provisions earlier agreed to by Texas that protect the rights of millions of indigent children to medical care under the Medicaid law. The questions presented are: (1) In interpreting the provisions of a consent decree, and in deciding whether those provisions should be dissolved, should a court consider the purpose for which the provisions were adopted? (2) In interpreting the provisions of a consent decree, and in deciding whether those provisions should be dissolved, should a court give weight to the interpretation of the provisions by the judge who originally approved them?

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