What are the advantages of entering into a consent decree?


You may want to consider entering into a consent decree rather than dismissing your lawsuit to settle privately because consent decrees have some clear advantages.


Ensuring Compliance. Entering into a consent decree may ensure compliance on the part of your employer and speed up the process of enforcing the settlement. Greater compliance may result because a court can hold your employer in contempt if it fails to live up to the terms of your consent decree, but cannot do the same if you and your employer enter into a private agreement instead.


Efficiency. Consent decrees are more efficient than private settlements because a court maintains jurisdiction over it. In other words, as a party to a consent decree, unlike parties to a private settlement, you can get the court to enforce the terms of the decree without filing a new lawsuit.


You may want to consider entering into a consent decree rather than continue to litigate in court to benefit from the advantages of a consent decree.


Early Resolution. Like a private settlement, a consent decree can bring you early peace. While litigation frequently takes several years before the losing party exhausts the appeals process, you and your employer may negotiate a consent decree and the court may approve it within days or weeks. Indeed, occasionally a court enters a consent decree on the same day the plaintiff files the complaint. Early resolution by consent decree is likely to reduce the uncertainties associated with litigation and to allow you and your employer to make plans based on the decree’s terms. But keep in mind that future disputes may still arise regarding the implementation of your decree. In the context of a consent decree, however, disputes will be restricted to the terms that you negotiated and that the court approved. Thus, early resolution by consent decree does not guarantee an end to disputes between you and your employer, but greatly restricts their scope and nature.


Lower Court Expenses. Entry into a consent decree also saves the expenses of trial. However, it should be pointed out that because entering into a consent decree may be only the beginning of your relationship with your company and the court, you should anticipate subsequent court expenses. In most cases parties to a consent decree, by avoiding trial, are not ending litigation expenses, but seeking only to minimize them. Although, the expense of obtaining and implementing a consent decree should still be significantly lower than the expense of obtaining and implementing a litigated decree.


Fewer of the Uncertainties of Trial. Also, it is impossible for anyone to be certain as to the outcome of a trial. The facts of your case might seem relatively clear and the outcome of your trial obvious, but the trier of fact (the judge or jury) may disagree and find otherwise. Similarly, even when the relevant legal rules appear uncontroversial, the trial judge might make a mistake (which could be appealed) or may carve out an exception to the typical rule. Therefore, regardless of whether uncertainty about the outcome is high or low, you may want to consider entering into a consent decree to avoid the risk of an unlikely or undesirable result. For example, with a consent decree, you would have more control as to what the court may grant as relief because forms of relief would be explicitly laid out in your decree.


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