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Consent Decrees

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Where you stand depends on where you sit, and this post by Jordan Weissmann at BLT describes an epiphany of one lawyer who has looked at consent decrees from both sides now.

Peter Nickles is the Attorney General of D.C. He wants to get the government out from under a consent decree regarding "a 34-year-old class action dealing with the quality of support services that the District of Columbia provides to the mentally disabled." The consent decree problem is also common in prison litigation, and was the subject of a CJLF Brief in the case of Valdivia v. Schwarzenegger. The Evans case

is one of several cases in which the city is attempting to escape settlements known as consent decrees, which require historically troubled agencies to meet ambitious performance targets. Nickles, who spearheaded one of the first such cases while in private practice, has publicly criticized the settlements as unrealistic and burdensome to the city.

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Eventually Nickles launched into something of a monologue (he objected when Huvelle called it a "speech") on the evils of consent decrees, recalling his own "30 years suing the District," and the problems the cases had created for the city.

"You have too many lawyers trying to run the city," he said. Along the way, he brought up one of his favorite books, "Democracy By Decree," a critical take on, yes, consent decrees.

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"I take the position, your Honor, that elected officials should be able to run the city's agencies," Nickles said.


Right. And also the state's prisons.

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"I take the position, your Honor, that elected officials should be able to run the city's agencies," Nickles said.

He should have added "and take responsibility for" after "run".

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