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Court Holds 11th Amendment Doesn't Bar Consent Decree Enforcement

The defendant state officials argued that under the Eleventh Amendment, a consent decree enforcing statutory rights could not be enforced to the extent that decree provisions went beyond the requirements of federal law. Judge Justice doesn't buy it. Lelsz v. Kavanagh is distinguished because it prohibits the enforcement of consent judgments based only on state law and prohibits the court's imposition of further measures consistent with the "spirit" of the decree. Saahir v. Estelle is distinguished because here, the issue is not one that "falls in the area of state governance," it's a federal program; there, a poorly drafted consent decree provision had no relation to federal law; and the distinction between what a court may approve and what it may enforce was not central (the disputed provision not being approvable had it initially been read as the plaintiff sought to read it). In any case the distinction between what can be approved and what can be enforced is untenable.

The court proceeds to examine the challenged provisions of the decree and find them to "resolve a dispute within the court's jurisdiction, come within the general scope of the case made by the pleadings, and further the objectives of the law upon which the complaint was based." (Relying on Firefighters v. Cleveland.) See: Frew v. Gilbert, 109 F.Supp.2d 579 (E.D.Tex. 2000) (Justice, J.).

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Related legal case

Frew v. Gilbert