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Published in Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics (1996) v. 10: 115-150. Copyright 1996, Georgetown University Law Center. Used by permission.


The issue addressed in this article is whether and to what extent a lawyer has an ethical responsibility to pursue implementation of the remedy in institutional reform litigation. Institutional reform litigation refers to cases in which an individual or class of individuals sues a large organization in order to vindicate constitutional or statutory rights. The types of cases with which this article is concerned are the "public law" type, such as school desegregation, prisoners' rights and patients' rights cases, although included under the rubric of institutional reform can be, inter alia, antitrust, reapportionment and bankruptcy cases. The implementation stage of institutional reform litigation arises after an individual or class of individuals prevails at the liability stage, or pursuant to a settlement, and a court orders the defendant organization to change in order to vindicate the plaintiffs' rights. At that point, the defendant organization, whether it be a prison, mental hospital or school district, usually has the burden of implementing the order. One conclusion drawn is that the ethical duty of the lawyer must always be consistent with the lawyer's "special responsibility for the quality of justice."

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