University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Love v. Vilsack FH-DC-0012
Docket / Court 1:00-cv-02502-RBW ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Fair Housing/Lending/Insurance
Attorney Organization Washington Lawyers' Committee
Case Summary
On October 19, 2000, a group of women farmers and ranchers filed this lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture ("USDA") in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged in their complaint that the USDA had engaged in ... read more >
On October 19, 2000, a group of women farmers and ranchers filed this lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture ("USDA") in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged in their complaint that the USDA had engaged in systematic discrimination against women farmers in ranchers in its farm loan and loan servicing programs. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that women had been denied the opportunity to apply for loans in the USDA "Minority and Socially Disadvantaged Program" (which listed women as eligible applicants), and experienced delayed loan processing and servicing, all due to gender discrimination. Additionally, the plaintiffs alleged that the USDA failed to investigate discrimination complaints brought to their attention, and also ignored reports from the Office of the Inspector General and Civil Rights Action Team, which described widespread failure to respond to complaints and keep records, and a lack of accountability regarding resolving these issues. Plaintiffs brought this action 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. They sought a declaration that the USDA's discriminatory practices were unlawful, compensatory damages of at least $3,000,000,000, and an order prohibiting discrimination and mandating full and timely enforcement of civil rights complaints.

On January, 11, 2001, USDA moved to dismiss the plaintiffs' complaint, pointing to the availability of alternative administrative remedies, time-barring issues, and the unavailability of APA claims when other causes of action are available. On February 20, 2001, the plaintiffs' moved for a preliminary injunction, asking the court to order the USDA to align their practices with the requirements of ECOA. The same day, the plaintiffs moved to certify a class of "Women, minorities and other protected participants in FSA's farm programs who petitioned, or would have petitioned had they not been induced, tricked, or otherwise prevented from timely filing a complaint, the USDA at any time between 1/1/1981, and 12/31/1999, for relief from acts of discrimination visited on them, as they tried to participate in such farm programs and who, because of the failings in the USDA civil rights complaint processing system [], were denied equal protection under the laws of the United States and deprived of due process in the handling of their discrimination complaints."

District Court Judge James Robertson entered an order on March 2, 2001, denying the plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction. On December 13, 2001, Judge Robertson entered an order granting in part and denying in part USDA's motion to dismiss. Judge Robertson dismissed the APA and ECOA failure to investigate claims. 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25201 (D.D.C. 2001). The plaintiffs appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Judge Robertson entered an order on September 29, 2004, denying plaintiffs' motion to certify the class, stating that the class lacked a showing of commonality stemming from a common policy of discrimination. 224 F.R.D. 240 (D.D.C. 2004). The plaintiffs filed an appeal of this order, which the Court of Appeals joined with the previous appeal regarding Judge Robertson's dismissal of the APA and ECOA claims. On March 3, 2006, the Court of Appeals (Judge David B. Sentelle) entered a judgment affirming in part and reversing in part. The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of class certification and the dismissal of the failure to investigate claim under ECOA, but remanded the failure to investigate claim under the APA. 439 F.3d 723 (D.C. Cir. 2006). On May 19, 2006, District Court Judge Robertson entered a stay on the case.

On November 30, 2007, Judge Robertson, after reviewing his decision regarding the failure to investigate claims under the APA, again dismissed the APA claim and the non-credit discrimination claims. 525 F. Supp. 2d 155 (D.D.C. 2007). Judge Robertson ruled that when a victim of discrimination can sue directly remedy her injury, no action lies under the APA for failure to adequately investigate, monitor, or police that discrimination. The plaintiffs appealed this decision. On December 4, 2007, Judge Robertson continued the current stay on the case. On April 24, 2009, the Court of Appeals (Judge Judith W. Rogers) affirmed the District Court's decision in this case and the similar decision in the Hispanic farmers discrimination case, Garcia v. Vilsack, except remanded the District Court's dismissal of the non-credit disaster claims. 563 F.3d 519 (D.C. Cir. 2009).

On July 19, 2010, District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton stayed the case pending settlement negotiations. On March 23, 2011, approximately 286 individuals entered a motion to intervene. However, this was held in abeyance by Judge Walton pending the stay.

In response to USDA's settlement proposal (which included an administrative claims framework), the plaintiffs filed their fourth amended complaint on July 13, 2012. The new complaint included a new series of counts, alleging that USDA had discriminated against women farmers by offering them an inferior settlement framework compared to the more generous frameworks given to African American and Native Americans who brought similar discrimination suits. In those counts, the plaintiffs asserted that the proposed framework was inferior because it appropriated much less money to the administrative claims process than the other settlements, required more evidence of discrimination, and since there was no certified class, the plaintiffs had no guaranteed access to counsel. The plaintiffs entered a putative class of "Women farmers who wish to apply for relief through USDA's administrative claims program for women farmers, but who, due to USDA's decision in offering a different program for women farmers, do not have the opportunity to apply for relief on equally beneficial terms to those offered by USDA to similarly situated African Americans and Native Americans." USDA moved to dismiss these additional count for lack of standing on September 24, 2012. The same day, USDA launched the "Hispanic and Women Farmers and Ranchers Claim Resolution Process." This claims process was open for 180 days, ending on March 25, 2013. The deadline was eventually extended to May 1, 2013.

On October 15, 2012, the plaintiffs moved for summary judgment. USDA moved to stay the case on November 2, which Judge Walton granted on November 18. On December 11, 2012, Judge Walton entered an order dismissing the plaintiffs' claims regarding the discriminatory framework proposal, and denying their motion for summary judgment. 908 F. Supp. 2d 139 (D.D.C. 2012). However, the counts related to declaratory judgment and violation of the ECOA remain.

On April 4, 2013, the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Inc. moved to intervene in this suit. Both parties opposed this motion. On June 13, 2014, the Court (Judge Robert E. Payne) denied the Motion to Intervene. 304 F.R.D. 77. The BFAA appealed, and the appellate court denied the motions as moot given the passage of time and procedural posture of the case. 2014 WL 6725751.

As of March 13, 2015, the administrator of the Claim Resolution Processed had received over 53,000 claims, 22,163 of which were deemed timely, and complete. The administrator then sorted eligible claims into three tiers with awards of up to $250,000. As of March 2015, all eight plaintiffs who participated in the program had been mailed their funds. In all, the administrator approved and paid out a total of 3,210 claims.

On April 8, 2015, the Plaintiffs moved to dismiss the first two counts of their original claim (alleging discrimination when seeking farm loans) and to reinstate counts III through VI of their amended claim (alleging discrimination in the more recent claims administration process.) On November 14, 2016, Judge Walton granted the Plaintiffs' motion to dismiss and denied their motion to reinstate, at which point all the Plaintiffs' claims were dismissed. The Plaintiffs requested reinstatement of several claims from their fourth amended complaint, which was denied. The Plaintiffs were then only allowed to file separately for an award of fees, costs, and expenses. The Plaintiffs request for fees was denied on May 7, 2018.

The case is now closed.

Dan Osher - 07/13/2013
Rachel Carpman - 10/12/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Bank or credit provider
Gender identity
Sex discrimination
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), 15 U.S.C. § 1691
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Agricuture
Plaintiff Description Women farmers and ranchers who allege that they were denied loans or loan servicing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to their gender.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Washington Lawyers' Committee
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filing Year 2000
Case Ongoing No
Case Listing FH-DC-0010 : Garcia v. Vilsack (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0011 : Cantu v. United States (D.D.C.)
1:00−cv−02502 (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/01/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
FH-DC-0012-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/19/2000
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 28] (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/13/2001
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Order Denying Class Certification [ECF# 66] (224 F.R.D. 240) (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/29/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
USCA Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 953116] (439 F.3d 723)
FH-DC-0012-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/03/2006
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 93] (525 F.Supp.2d 155) (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/30/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
USCA Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 1177401] (563 F.3d 519)
FH-DC-0012-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/24/2009
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fourth Amended and Supplemented Complaint [ECF# 160]
FH-DC-0012-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/13/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 176] (908 F.Supp.2d 139) (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/11/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 219] (304 F.R.D. 85) (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/13/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
USDA's Status Report [ECF# 248]
FH-DC-0012-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/08/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 260] (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/09/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 261]
FH-DC-0012-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/23/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 269] (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/14/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 278] (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/07/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Robertson, James (D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0002 | FH-DC-0012-0003 | FH-DC-0012-0004 | FH-DC-0012-0011
Rogers, Judith Ann Wilson (D.C. Circuit)
FH-DC-0012-0008 | FH-DC-0012-0011
Sentelle, David Bryan (W.D.N.C., D.C. Circuit)
FH-DC-0012-0007 | FH-DC-0012-0011
Walton, Reggie B. (FISC, D.D.C.)
FH-DC-0012-0006 | FH-DC-0012-0009 | FH-DC-0012-0012 | FH-DC-0012-0013 | FH-DC-0012-0014 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, Alison L. (District of Columbia)
Behravesh, Rebecca S (District of Columbia)
Boggs, Roderic Van Oesen (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0012-0005 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Dunne, Kristine J (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0012-0005 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Fleischaker, Marc L (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0012-0005 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Fraas, Philip L (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0012-0001 | FH-DC-0012-0005 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Huhta, Susan E. (District of Columbia)
Johnson, Kristen Marie Jarvis (District of Columbia)
Pires, Alexander John Jr. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0012-0001 | FH-DC-0012-0005 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Read, Emily B. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0012-0005 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Wahl, Barbara S. (District of Columbia)
FH-DC-0012-0005 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cohen, Vincent H. (District of Columbia)
Millet, Thomas (District of Columbia)
Mizer, Benjamin C. (District of Columbia)
Quinlivan, Mark T (District of Columbia)
Rabinovitz, Joshua Z. (District of Columbia)
Sitcov, Michael (District of Columbia)
Wechsler, Peter T. (Massachusetts)
FH-DC-0012-0010 | FH-DC-0012-9000
Wells, Carlotta (District of Columbia)
Other Lawyers Chew, Benjamin G (District of Columbia)
Edwards, Christal E (Maryland)
Varma, Anurag (District of Columbia)

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