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Case Name Garcia v. Vilsack FH-DC-0010
Docket / Court 1:00-cv-02445 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Fair Housing/Lending/Insurance
Case Summary
On October 13, 2000, a group of Hispanic farmers and ranchers filed this suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture ("USDA") in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged that the "USDA ha[d] maintained, and continue[d] to ... read more >
On October 13, 2000, a group of Hispanic farmers and ranchers filed this suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture ("USDA") in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged that the "USDA ha[d] maintained, and continue[d] to maintain, a system of administering its farm credit and non-credit benefit programs that gives virtually unfettered discretion to local officials to enforce highly subjective eligibility criteria that, in turn, give vent to hostility to minority farmers which deprives them of an equal fair opportunity to participate in such programs." Some of the discriminatory practices that Plaintiffs complained of included: discouraging Hispanics from applying for loans, long delays in processing applications, high denial rates, prejudicial delays in providing loans and providing less amount than was requested, and failing to provide loan servicing assistance. Additionally, Plaintiffs claimed it was virtually impossible for them to secure redress through the USDA appeals process, because its Civil Rights Office was so severely limited by lack of funding and interest that there it was incapable of investigating discrimination claims. The statute of limitations for such claims had run, but Plaintiffs cited the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1999, 7 U.S.C. §2279, which waived the statute of limitations for such claims.

Plaintiffs filed under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. §1691, the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. §2201, and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq., requesting the following relief: (1) declaratory judgment that the practices, policies, patterns and procedures described above were unlawful, (2) a permanent injunction requiring USDA to adopt lending practice in conformity with ECOA and the APA, (3) a permanent injunction prohibiting USDA from engaging in discrimination in the administration of their loan programs and services, (4) an order mandating USDA to remedy its discriminatory practices by taking affirmative action to advertise to Hispanics, adopt a receipt system for all contacts with potential lendees, provide full and equal assistance to all farmers, provide Spanish versions of all application and explanation paperwork, employ fluent Spanish speakers, provide expedited review via independent mediators, and provide semi-annual reports to the Department Secretary, (5) redesign the computerized data collection system in order to ensure that full transparency is achieved, and (6) compensatory damages to deserving plaintiffs.

On December 22, 2000, the U.S. moved to dismiss all claims in Plaintiffs' complaint. On March 20, 2002, District Court Judge James Robertson granted in part and denied in part the motion to dismiss, dismissing the failure to investigate counts because, he found, they did not state a claim under ECOA or the APA. 2002 WL 33004124 (D.D.C. 2002).

December 22, 2000, Plaintiffs moved to certify the class. This class was described as: "Hispanics who farmed or ranched, or attempted to farm or ranch, during the period January 1, 1981, to the present and who were discriminated against by the USDA on the basis of national origin when they sought to participate on equal terms in farm loan and disaster benefit programs and who complained to the USDA about such discrimination." Subclasses were also proposed, defined by the phase of lending process in which the discrimination took place. Judge Robertson denied this motion on December 2, 2002, citing inadequate predominant of common question of law or fact to sustain the class certification. 211 F.R.D. 15 (D.D.C. 2002). Plaintiffs entered a renewed motion for class certification, attempting to remedy the commonality issue. However, Judge Robertson denied the renewed motion on September 10, 2004, stating that claims still lacked sufficient commonality. 224 F.R.D. 8 (D.D.C. 2004). Plaintiffs appealed this decision and the March 20, 2002 dismissal order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Plaintiffs had sought a temporary restraining order on March 23, 2001, but on March 27, 2001, District Court Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer denied the motion. During the appeal, Plaintiffs entered an emergency motion for preliminary injunction to the District Court on November 1, 2004, asking the court to order Defendant to adhere to the USDA policy that prohibits adverse actions against farmers who have filed civil rights complaints. However, Judge Robertson denied this motion on November 18, 2004, ruling that foreclosures were not necessarily prohibited by the policy.

On March 31, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals (Judge Karen L. Henderson) affirmed the District Court's denial of class certification and dismissal of the ECOA failure-to-investigate claim. 444 F.3d 625 (D.C. Cir. 2006). However, the Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal regarding the APA failure-to-investigate claim, remanding to the District Court to investigate the claim further.

Plaintiffs filed their third amended complain on June 30, 2006.

On November 30, 2007, Judge Robertson, after reconsidering the APA failure-to-investigate claim, dismissed the claim, citing his reasoning a similar opinion in Love v. Vilsack (see 525 F. Supp. 2d 155). Plaintiff appealed this decision again to the Court of Appeals. On April 24, 2009, the Court of Appeals (Judge Judith W. Rogers) affirmed the District Court dismissal of the APA claim. 563 F.3d 519 (D.C. Cir. 2009). Plaintiffs petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, but it was denied on January 19, 2010. 558 U.S. 1158 (2010).

On October 6, 2010, Plaintiffs, in response to a proposed settlement submitted by Defendant, moved the District Court to certify the settlement class before reviewing the proposed settlement agreement, citing several fairness issues. On October 20, 2010, District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton denied this motion.

On January 20, 2012, Defendant submitted its eighth status report, which included the latest proposed settlement agreement framework, which creates three tracks of payment claims: Tier 2 ($50,000 reward, requires "substantial evidence" of discrimination), Tier 1(a) ($50,000 reward and debt relief, requires substantial evidence of discrimination), and Tier 1(b) (up to $250,000 reward, required a preponderance of the evidence of discrimination). Plaintiffs complain, however, that this framework lacks the "procedural safeguards" that have existed in similar settlements such as Pigford v. Glickman and Keepseagle v. Vilsack.

On April 4, 2013, the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Inc., which had been removed as a party by the District Court in In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, moved to intervene in this matter. Both parties oppose this motion.

This case is still ongoing.

Dan Osher - 06/29/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Bank or credit provider
Discrimination-area
Lending
Discrimination-basis
National origin discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Record-keeping
Records Disclosure
Language
Spanish
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. § 1691
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Agriculture
Plaintiff Description Hispanics who farmed or ranched, or attempted to farm or ranch, during the period January 1, 1981, to the present and who were discriminated against by the USDA on the basis of national origin when they sought to participate on equal terms in farm loan and disaster benefit programs and who complained to the USDA about such discrimination.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing FH-DC-0011 : Cantu v. United States (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012 : Love v. Vilsack (D.D.C.)
Docket(s)
1:00-cv-02445 (D.D.C.) 06/08/2015
FH-DC-0010-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Order 03/20/2002 (2002 WL 33004124) (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0013.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum 12/02/2002 (211 F.R.D. 15) (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order Denying Class Certification 09/10/2004 (224 F.R.D. 8) (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0011.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 03/31/2006 (444 F.3d 625)
FH-DC-0010-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Amended Class Action Complaint 06/30/2006
FH-DC-0010-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Opposition to Plaintiffs' Request for Administrative Procedure Act Review 09/27/2006
FH-DC-0010-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Partial Opposition to Emergency Motion to Continue Order Staying Proceeding or, in the Alternative, to Issue a New Stay of Proceedings Nunc Pro Tunc to November 30, 2007 Until Further Order of the Court 12/05/2007
FH-DC-0010-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 01/16/2008 (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion 04/24/2009 (563 F.3d 519)
FH-DC-0010-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 10/20/2010 (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion 06/13/2014 (304 F.R.D. 77) (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Complaint 03/25/2015
FH-DC-0010-0015.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Thirteenth Status Report 06/08/2015
FH-DC-0010-0016.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Henderson, Karen LeCraft (D.C. Circuit, D.S.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0008
Robertson, James (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0004 | FH-DC-0010-0010 | FH-DC-0010-0011 | FH-DC-0010-0013
Rogers, Judith Ann Wilson (D.C. Circuit)
FH-DC-0010-0009
Walton, Reggie B. (FISC, D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0010-0012 | FH-DC-0010-0014 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Feinberg, Adam P (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0015 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Fraas, Philip L (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0001 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Hibey, Alexander John (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-9000
Hill, Stephen S (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0001 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Pires, Alexander John Jr. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0001 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Ruyak, Robert F. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0015 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Wiseman, Alan M. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0001 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bhattacharyya, Rupa (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0002 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Bucholtz, Jeffrey S. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0003
Cohen, Vincent H. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0016
Goitein, Elizabeth (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0002 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Howard, Roscoe (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0002
Keisler, Peter D. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0002
Lin, Jean (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-9000
Mizer, Benjamin C. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0016
Olson, Lisa A (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0002 | FH-DC-0010-0003 | FH-DC-0010-0016 | FH-DC-0010-9000
Sitcov, Michael (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0002 | FH-DC-0010-0003
Taylor, Jeff (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0010-0003
Other Lawyers Edwards, Christal E (Maryland)
FH-DC-0010-9000

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