A federal judge in Washington today preliminarily approved a $760 million settlement involving discrimination claims that a class of Native American farmers and ranchers brought against the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington had met in court with the plaintiffs’ attorneys and Justice Department team on Friday to go over the details of the settlement. This afternoon, Sullivan issued a four-page order granting preliminary approval.
The settlement calls for $680 million in compensation for potentially thousands of Native American farmers and ranchers who the USDA discriminated against in government-run loan programs. The settlement also includes $80 million in debt relief.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers, including Joseph Sellers of Washington’s Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, agreed to a fee range between about $30 million and $60 million.
After Friday’s hearing, the initial settlement was revised over the weekend “to emphasize that any award of attorney fees or service awards to class representative would be ‘subject to court approval,’ ” according to court records. Sullivan today set a fairness hearing for April 28, 2011.