CEI Files Amicus Brief in Support of Returning Funds to Black Farmers Discriminated Against by the USDA

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Class Action Fairness (CCAF) filed an amicus brief arguing unclaimed funds from the settlement in In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation should be returned to class members, black farmers who alleged racial discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) when it denied them farm loans and other benefits between 1981 and 1996. The settlement stems from a 1999 lawsuit called Pigford v. Glickman, where more than $1 billion was distributed to thousands of farmers, making it one of the largest civil rights settlements to date.

“The defendant and the class counsel in this case are arguing that the approximately $9 million in remaining settlement funds should be donated to an unrelated third party, also known as a cy pres distribution,” said CCAF attorney Adam Schulman. “CCAF seeks to provide a voice for absent class members’ interests. As funds obtained through settlement of their claims, these funds belong to class members, the farmers who faced discrimination. Giving the defendant’s money to someone else does not benefit class members at all, and the true choice in this case is to either give the remaining funds to some of these farmers or none at all.”

After the original Pigford settlement, thousands of farmers filed claims late and their claims were not heard. As a result Congress inserted a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill that provided these late-filing farmers the right to pursue their discrimination claims. The remaining $9 million stems from a 2010 settlement, where Congress appropriated additional funds to settle these claims, called Pigford II.

“We urge the court to reject any cy pres proposed in lieu of a direct benefit to the class via a secondary distribution to the farmers involved,” said Schulman. “We believe the rightful preference of compensating the class members has even more force in this case than others because of the Congressional intent underlying the claims resolved by this settlement.”

>> View the motion and the amicus brief in the Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation here.

>> For more information about the litigation visit the court’s informational website about the settlements here.