In a recent decision, Horne v. Flores, the Court demanded a broader and more flexible application of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (Rule) 60(b)(5). In doing so, the Court opened the door for states to seek relief from court-enforced agreements like consent decrees. This decision undermines the use of institutional reform litigation as a means of fixing the child welfare system and thus deals a further blow to the nation’s most vulnerable citizens. This Note will discuss Horne’s impact on consent decrees stemming from institutional reform litigation in child welfare. Part II will explore the history of Rule 60 as it applies to final judgments, and specifically consent decrees. Additionally, Part II discusses the Supreme Court’s application of Rule 60(b)(5) in Horne. Part III will critique the Court’s decision for providing a more flexible standard that weighs federalism concerns above the merits of the case. Part IV discusses the importance of consent decrees in child welfare and proposes suggestions for their ongoing use to be effective. Finally, Part V provides a brief conclusion.
Rachel Dunnington, A Barrier to Child Welfare Reform: The Supreme Court’s Flexible Approach to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) and Granting Relief to States in Institutional Reform Litigation, 36 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 1527 (2013).