Status of Lawsuit – Hispanic & Women Farmers and Ranchers

Hello! My name is Thomas Burrell, President of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Incorporated. You are about to watch one of several videos which will be available — via our webpage − for the benefit of our members. These videos will provide updates on the status of certain lawsuits and/or voluntary claims processes in general, and the Hispanic and Women farmers and ranchers voluntary claims process in particular. Each video will be approximately 10 to 12 minutes in length and will be posted at different times and intervals on our web site which is located at Click the News button at the top of the home page.

Judge Reggie B. Walton

In this video, we are going to discuss briefly some of the issues and, more particularly, the status of the two lawsuits which were initially filed by (1) Guadalupe Garcia et al., v. Tom Vilsack, Secretary, the United States Department of Agriculture, Case No.1:00CV02455 (RBW), and (2) Rosemary Love et al., v. Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, Case No. 1:00CV02502 (RBW). Judge Reggie B. Walton has jurisdiction of these two lawsuits.


Judge Paul L. Friedman

But, for the sake of perspective, I must speak briefly about all five lawsuits regarding racial discrimination against the USDA as of this date: November, 2014. The first lawsuit was filed in August of 1997, and was styled Timothy C. Pigford et al., v. Dan Glickman, Secretary, The United States Department of Agriculture, Civil Action No. 97-1978 (PLF) (Pigford I). Judge Paul L. Friedman has jurisdiction over this lawsuit.

Judge Michael Lewis

Attorney Michael K. Lewis

Pigford I claimants were paid $50,000.00 in 1999 and 2001. The Second lawsuit: In re BLACK FARMERS DISCRIMINATION LITIGATION, Misc. No. 08-0511 (D.D.C.) (Pigford II).  Pigford II was for the benefit of the approximately 61,000 or so African Americans who were designated as a “LATE FILER” in Pigford I. A LATE FILER was anyone who had attempted to get into Pigford I but was denied entry by Attorney Michael K. Lewis who was an Arbitrator in the Pigford I lawsuit. We will talk more about this situation in a later video. The claimants in Pigford II, however, were also paid $50,000.00 in September and October of last year—2013. The third lawsuit was for the benefit of Native American farmers and ranchers and was styled: Marylyn Keepseagle et al., v. Tom Villach, Civil Action No. 1:99CV03119 (EGS). Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has jurisdiction over this lawsuit.

Judge Emmit Sullivan

Judge Emmit G. Sullivan

The claimants in the Native American lawsuit were likewise paid $50, 000.00 in 2012. But, as I stated earlier, we will revisit these three lawsuits and address some of the issues and concerns that those who were denied relief in those lawsuits may have (i.e., individuals who prevailed in the lawsuits but did not received debt relief or injunctive relief).

Now, before going any further, I must state that all of the lawsuits that I have referenced or will mentioned later are closed, unless congress or the courts should say otherwise. However, and there is a however, the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Incorporated (BFAA, Inc.), did file a MOTION in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia to INTERVENE in the Hispanic and Women farmers and ranchers voluntary claims process. This Motion to Intervene was timely filed in April of 2013, for the expressed benefit of any and all BFAA, Inc. members who were either denied entry into the Pigford I, Pigford II and Keepseagle class action lawsuits. This Motion to Intervene was filed pursuant to the F. R. Civ. Procedure 24 (a) and (b) respectively.

A Rule 24 Motion To Intervene could be compared to a family member calling ahead to a hotel to book rooms for the entire family’s up and coming reunion, i.e., blocking a certain number of rooms for the benefit of the entire family, or at least a designated number of family members.  This pre-blocking of rooms will ensure that they (the entire family) will have sufficient rooms for the reunion. Therefore, the individual family members do not have to call and reserve rooms—just the designated spokesperson (representative) of the family. And, just like the family reunion—that block of rooms will be for family members only—not the public at large.  By comparison, BFAA, Inc. (your representative) reserved rooms (space on the Judge’s Docket) for our members— not just for anyone who would otherwise need a room at large.

This hotel example further speaks to the issue of standing.  And, by comparison, illustrates the point that whatever rights BFAA, Inc. (your representative) may have in court—exists only because our members (you) would otherwise have those same rights in court or the hotel. Hereto, just like the spokesperson for the family reunion – BFAA, Inc., by and through its attorneys, is “representing” and speaking on behalf of our family (BFAA, Inc. members) only.  Accordingly, our Motion To Intervene will not be—when granted—for farmers and ranchers and/or their heirs at large but only our members in particular.

Moreover, our attorneys are not asking the court to open up another lawsuit for our members. Our lawyers are arguing that, among other things, (1) there are enough funds (Judgement Fund) and/or money in both the Hispanic and the Women farmers and ranchers claims process to pay our members as well. And more importantly, (2) our members share the same common issues[1] regarding racial discrimination that all members of the Hispanic and Women farmers and ranchers faced at the hands of USDA county employees as spelled out by Congress in The Appropriations Act of 1999 and its relevant part (Sections 741 (a).  That is to say, BFAA, Inc. members were discriminated against just like the claimants in Pigford I, Pigford, II, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans and Women were discriminated against by USDA. BFAA, Inc. members were treated the exact same way. Therefore, the right to intervene pursuant to F. R. Civ. Procedure 24 (a) and (b) respectively—our attorneys argue —should be GRANTED.

BFAA, Inc. further maintains and believes that when congress passed the 2008 Farm Bill (Food, Energy and Conservation Act) and its relevant part (“Section 14011”)—it intended for BFAA, Inc. members who have not had a chance to make a meritorious claim of discrimination against USDA to do so. Our Motion To Intervene is, therefore, asking the court to grant us the same relief and redress that congress intended for all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers (their heirs and administrators) to have.  No more and no less.

Now, having given some historical context of these lawsuits and their corresponding proceedings—I will simply state that — with regards to the Hispanic and Women farmers and ranchers lawsuits—“the jury is still out.” “Judge Walton is still out.” “The arbitrators and adjudicators are still out.” Put another way: neither Judge Walton, nor any other court of competent jurisdiction, has issued an ORDER which would effectively instruct the Treasury Department to start sending out $50,000.0 checks to prevailing claimants in these two lawsuits.

Assuredly, a Court ORDER and corresponding payouts would be one of the most treasured and entertained Christmas present one could receive! I can recall the expressions of happiness in 1999, when several members of my family received notices that they had been approved for $50,000 in the month of December of that year.  Here, regrettably, as of the end of November of 2014, we know of no one who has received such a letter. We are still waiting. Just as in the television series of Law and Order and Perry Mason, no association, let alone an attorney, can make the jury or judge render their verdict simply because they (attorney) wanted them to do so.

When the court makes its decision, that decision will be for the benefit of all individuals who will have established standing in these lawsuits. That is to say: it will include Hispanics Americans, Women and African Americans farmers and ranchers, their heirs and administrators. Right now, we have to be patient and allow the court to make its decision. “The Judge(s) is still out.” We simply have to be patient and wait for the court to make its decision.

Again, I hope that this video will provided some measure of clarity and consolation as to where we are in this process, and as things change; we will be updating you accordingly.

Lastly, we have decided not to hold any meetings at this time because we would simply be restating what has been said at previous meetings. We will schedule and conduct numerous meetings after our attorneys inform us as of the content and ruling of the Court’s ORDER.

On behalf of all the members of the BFAA, Inc. family: Happy Holidays. Thank you and God Bless!

[1]   See again, F. R. Civ. Procedures 24 (a) (b).

P.S.: For your reading: NFL Player turns farmer

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