Federal courts can force states to comply with the terms of consent decrees, such as promises to improve healthcare services, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. Such agreements are routinely used to resolve class-action lawsuits against public officials and agencies. The decision stems from a 1993 lawsuit accusing the Texas Medicaid program of failing to provide adequate early and periodic screenings, diagnoses and treatment for children. Mothers of eligible children sought injunctive relief, claming the program did not satisfy federal requirements, lacked proper case management and did not provide uniform services statewide. Texas signed a consent decree in 1996 to improve services, but plaintiffs returned to court two years later contending the state still wasn't providing appropriate care for children under Medicaid law. "Federal courts are not reduced to approving consent decrees and hoping for compliance," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the opinion. "Once entered, a consent decree may be enforced." -- by Julie Piotrowski
States can be held to consent decrees: high court
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.