Hundreds of potential claimants in the high-profile black farmers discrimination case are challenging the denial of their claims for a share of a $1.25 billion settlement fund.
The federal government agreed to settle claims of loan discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture not covered by a previous settlement in 1999. U.S. District Senior Judge Paul Friedman approved the new settlement in 2011.
Since then, Friedman wrote in a recent court filing, he has received a flood of challenges from claimants who sought compensation in the latest deal. In his Dec. 31 opinion, Friedman told lawyers for the class and the U.S. Department of Justice to respond to issues raised by the challengers by Jan. 30.
The judge submitted a sample of the letters and motions he received explaining the challengers' positions. Many non-prevailing claimants said their claims were wrongfully denied on the grounds that they failed to prove they complained about discrimination by July 1, 1997, in time to qualify for the settlement.
Some non-prevailing claimants said the claims administrator wrongly found that they failed to apply for certain assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture between January 1981 and December 1996, the time period covered by the settlement. Others filed general form letters seeking reconsideration.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department could not immediately be reached. A lead attorney for the class, Andrew Marks of Coffey Burlington, also could not be reached.
The 2011 settlement was designed to resolve claims brought by plaintiffs who didn't meet the deadline to file claims for the first settlement, which was approved in 1999. According to court filings, the 2011 settlement would resolve pending claims filed by approximately 40,000 plaintiffs.
The New York Times earlier this year identified allegations of fraud and other criticism in connection with settlements reached in the black farmers litigation and other similar cases. NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Benjamin Jealous responded with a piece in The Trice Edney News Wire calling the Times' findings "simply unfair and untrue."