May 19, 1998
The Administration opposes H.R. 3718, a bill to limit the jurisdiction of
the Federal courts with respect to prison release orders. The Department
of Justice advises that
H.R. 3718 would raise serious constitutional concerns and dramatically
increase litigation over prison conditions.
Section 14 would appear to terminate certain consent decrees concerning prison conditions. As a result, the provision would raise serious constitutional separation of powers concerns pertaining to the power of Congress to alter judgments rendered by Article III courts.
H.R. 3718 would also terminate consent decrees even in cases where State and local governments consider them to be appropriate and necessary. The bill would therefore trigger new and unnecessary litigation as to the appropriateness of reentering judicial relief.
H.R. 3718 also would preclude prisoner release orders even where a three-judge court finds by clear and convincing evidence that other court-ordered relief had failed to remedy unconstitutional conditions at a prison and no other relief would provide an effective remedy.
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