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The United States Law Week

Black Farmers’ Credit Bias Claim Tossed From USDA Settlement

Jan. 15, 2019, 6:03 PM

Estates of black male farmers that submitted claims in connection with a USDA civil rights settlement can’t allege discrimination in how the administrator processed them, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held.

The USDA entered into the settlement in Pigford v. Glickman in 1999 to resolve a class action alleging it discriminated against black farmers in its loan programs in the 1980s and 90s. The settlement also included processes for other civil rights allegations.

The estates allege the settlement administrator, Epiq Class Action & Claims Solutions Inc., discriminated by giving female and Hispanic claimants access to claims processes that black male farmers didn’t get.

The farmers’ estates lack standing to assert credit discrimination because the five-year statute of limitations has lapsed, Judge Cornelia T.L. Pillard wrote for the court. Even if they were timely, they can’t file credit discrimination claims because credit bias is among the claims that are released by the settlement agreement, Pillard said.

Judges Thomas B. Griffith and David B. Sentelle joined the opinion.

Paul A. Robinson Jr. in Memphis represented the farmers. Locke Lord LLP in Washington represented the settlement administrator. The Justice Department in Washington represented the USDA.

The case is Estate of Boyland v. USDA, D.C. Cir., No. 17-5082, 1/15/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jon Steingart in Washington at jsteingart@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com