Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Ralph C. Chandler

Second Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak

Third Advisor

Dr. John McNamara


The purpose of this study was to analyze the recent practice of judges appointing remedial special masters to oversee the implementation of consent decrees and court orders. These orders are a response to the spate of inmate suits demanding compliance with the constitutional guarantees provided in the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. As more courts have become involved in adjudging the constitutionality of conditions in correctional institutions, there has been a trend toward the judge becoming a quasi-manager in assuring compliance with the court's orders. To conduct this oversight, they have turned more and more to the practice of hiring agents called remedial special masters to conduct the activities of compliance and report to them the defendants' efforts in reaching an acceptable level of compliance. Now that there is a 15-year history of this usage, it is timely to discover what these remedial special masters have learned about their role and, further, what future implications can be drawn regarding this unique addition to the judicial arsenal of techniques for social change.

The researcher concentrated on discussing and analyzing a recent Michigan case, Yokley v. Oakland County (C.A. 78-70625), in which the federal court judge appointed a monitor to both oversee and assist in the process of reaching compliance with a remedial court order. The study also examined the literature in this emerging field, and surveyed 20 other individuals who have served in a similar capacity across the nation in recent years. The case study approach presents a detailed description of the events that led to the filing of the suit; the decision to appoint a remedial special master; the actions taken by the master; and an analysis of the political, economic, and social factors that affected the mastership. The survey of the other remedial special masters who have been involved in insuring compliance with court orders to improve conditions in corrections institutions provides information on their experiences with this recently developed method of court intervention.

It was concluded that the use of remedial special masters to manage compliance with court-ordered constitutional achievement of basic rights does appear to have contributed to the defendants' efforts to reach compliance with the court decree. The need for this intervention is predicated on the existence of a condition of unwillingness or inability of the executive and/or legislative branches of government to implement the provisions of the court order without judicial management and direction.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access