Text: H.R.4041 — 110th Congress (2007-2008)

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Introduced in House (11/01/2007)


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[Congressional Bills 110th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
[H.R. 4041 Introduced in House (IH)]







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:
``Sec. 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.
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