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Tag Archive: private laws

The Decline of Private Laws


Sunlight's Policy Intern, Melanie Buck, wrote the following article. Because of a quirk in the law, Adela Bailor was ineligible for compensation for the brutal attack she suffered at the hands of a felon in federal custody. A court concluded that it had no power to hold the government responsible for her attack, even while noting her case “raise[d] serious questions about the moral responsibility of the government to protect its citizens.” In its opinion, the court suggested that she had one last resort: Congress. Congress has the power to enact “private laws,” a type of legislation narrowly targeted to provide benefits to specifically identified individuals (including corporate bodies) when “no other remedy is available.” Claims of ill treatment and unfair circumstances have prompted many of the 107 proposed private laws currently pending in Congress.

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