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The full Second Circuit late yesterday charted a compromise path between a 1996 district court ruling that had vacated the 20-year-old consent decrees governing city jails, and a 1997 ruling by one of its panels that had declared the decrees enforceable in state court.

The in banc ruling, joined in whole or in part by all 10 participating judges, remanded the closely watched case, Benjamin v. Jacobson, 96-7957, to the district court so prisoner advocates can get a crack at proving that the decrees, or parts of them, are still needed to correct an ongoing violation of a federal right.

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