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May 2006Vol. 7, No. 4The Federal Consent Decree Fairness Act

Bills currently under consideration in both the House and the Senate of the U.S. Congress would introduce time limits and other restrictions for Federal court consent decrees that place State or local government agencies under court control. The proposed Federal Consent Decree Fairness Act (FCDFA) would impact child welfare agencies in at least 30 States where class action lawsuits have resulted in court supervision of the agencies.

The goal of the proposed legislation is to place the control of programs and funding back into the hands of lawmakers once the issue that prompted the lawsuit has been resolved. The FCDFA would accomplish this by:

  • Permitting defendants from States or local jurisdictions to apply for a modification or termination of a consent decree 4 years after its entry in court or whenever there is a change in the elected government
  • Placing the burden of proof on the plaintiffs to show that the continuation of the consent decree is necessary if they want it to continue
  • Automatically terminating the decree if a judge does not rule within 90 days

In March 2005, the FCDFA was introduced in the Senate by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) as Senate Bill 489 and in the House of Representatives by Representative Roy Blount (R-MO) as House Bill 1229. To read the text of the FCDFA, go to: