Frew v. Hawkins

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  • Workplace Equality and Economic Empowerment
  • Public Benefits and Poverty
  • Joined Amicus Brief
2004

Determined whether it is constitutional to use federal power to compel the State of Texas to provide Medicaid to indigent children under the Medicaid Act.

Summary of the Case

This lawsuit was filed to compel Texas officials to fulfill their obligations under the Medicaid Act to provide indigent children with medical screening and treatment services. It was settled by a consent decree in 1995. In 1998, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the consent decree, and the court, after holding a hearing, directed the defendants to comply with their obligations under the decree. The state defendants appealed. Under the Fifth Circuit's novel decision, the enforceability of consent decrees against states would have been limited by the Eleventh Amendment and would have required plaintiffs to overcome demanding and often insurmountable hurdles.

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum joined an amicus brief in support of the Petitioners' challenge to the Fifth Circuit's ruling. Left undisturbed, that ruling would have upset countless settlements between institutional reform plaintiffs and state officials, and would have seriously hampered the ability of civil rights and other plaintiffs to enforce federal laws against state government officials.

Decision

The Supreme Court unanimously rejected the Fifth Circuit's reasoning, holding that enforcement of the consent decree does not violate the Eleventh Amendment.