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Case Name Miller v. Vilsack PB-TX-0017
Docket / Court 4:21-cv-00595-O ( N.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Challenges to minority benefits in Biden Administration American Rescue Plan
Case Summary
This case is one of several challenging the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) classification of “socially disadvantaged groups.”

A white rancher from Texas filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District ... read more >
This case is one of several challenging the American Rescue Plan’s (ARP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) classification of “socially disadvantaged groups.”

A white rancher from Texas filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Fort Worth) on April 26, 2021. The sole defendant was the secretary of the USDA. Plaintiff challenged Sections 1005 and 1006 of the ARP. These sections provided loan forgiveness to farmers and ranchers during the COVID-19 pandemic only if they qualified as a “socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher.” The USDA defined “socially disadvantaged” as a farmer or rancher who was from one or more of the following ethnic groups: African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Asians, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders. These groups were selected as they “have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity[.]” Plaintiff alleged that USDA’s definition failed to “include white ethnic groups that have unquestionably suffered ethnic prejudice.” Plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief and attorney’s fees. Plaintiff was represented by the America First Legal Foundation and private counsel. Judge Reed O'Connor was assigned.

Plaintiff cited three claims. First, the USDA’s “racial exclusions” violated the U.S. Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Second, in the alternative, the phrase “socially disadvantaged group” must be interpreted to include white ethnic groups that have suffered past prejudice or that the phrase “socially disadvantaged group” must be interpreted to include any individuals who have “any discernible trace of minority ancestry[.]” Plaintiff alleged that the ARP is “silent on how much minority ancestry is needed” to qualify. Additionally, plaintiff sought to certify a class of “all farmers and ranchers in the [U.S.] who are currently excluded from the [USDA’s] interpretation of ‘socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher.’”

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, two motions for class certification, and a motion for a preliminary injunction on June 2, 2021. The amended complaint added four additional named plaintiffs and an additional proposed class. The four new named plaintiffs were all white farmers from Texas. The additional class was proposed by these four new plaintiffs as a "more narrow class of all farmers and ranchers in the United States who are encountering, or who will encounter, racial discrimination from the United States Department of Agriculture on account of section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act." On the same day, plaintiffs moved to certify both this new class and the class in the original complaint. Additionally, plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the USDA from forgiving loans based on race or ethnicity.

The USDA filed a response to plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction on June 11, 2021. They argued that Congress authorized this loan forgiveness to remedy “well-documented, long standing racial discrimination in USDA loan programs[.]” Further, the classifications at issue were necessary to “ensure [USDA’s] pandemic relief efforts did not perpetuate the effects of that discrimination.”

The court certified both plaintiff classes and granted a preliminary injunction on July 1, 2021. The USDA was enjoined from “discriminating on account of race or ethnicity” in administering section 1005. The USDA filed a notice on the following day. It stated the USDA had stopped issuing payments under 1005 even before the court granted the preliminary injunction. However, the USDA had continued “preparatory steps” which included “sending offer letters to eligible borrowers, to enable prompt payments if later permitted."

The USDA declined to appeal Judge O'Connor's order within the requisite 60-day window, so, as of October 13, 2021, the preliminary injunction remains in place.

However, on October 6 the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's Title VI claims. USDA's lawyers argued that the civil rights statute did not apply to the administration of a government benefits program. That motion is currently pending.

In the early months of the case, several organizations representing minority farmers moved to intervene in support of the defendants, including the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), Association of American Indian Farmers (AAIF), and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. Many other groups filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the USDA's program.

This case is ongoing.

Eric Gripp - 08/01/2021
Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 10/13/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Benefit Source
American Rescue Plan (ARP)
Constitutional Clause
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Discrimination-area
Lending
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Funding
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
White
Causes of Action Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Title VI, Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Agriculture
Plaintiff Description All farmers and ranchers in the United States who are encountering, or who will encounter, racial discrimination from the United States Department of Agriculture on account of section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan Act and All farmers and ranchers in the United States who are currently excluded from the definition of ‘socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher,’ as defined in 7 U.S.C. § 2279(a)(5)–(6) and as interpreted by the Department of Agriculture
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2021 - n/a
Filed 04/26/2021
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
N.D. Tex.
10/13/2021
4:21-cv-00595-O
PB-TX-0017-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Tex.
04/26/2021
Plaintiff's Class-Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
PB-TX-0017-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Tex.
06/02/2021
Plaintiffs' First Amended Class-Action Complaint [ECF# 11]
PB-TX-0017-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Tex.
06/11/2021
Defendant's Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 27]
PB-TX-0017-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Tex.
07/01/2021
Order [ECF# 60]
PB-TX-0017-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Tex.
07/02/2021
Defendant's Notice Regarding Scope of Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 61]
PB-TX-0017-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges O'Connor, Reed Charles (N.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0004 | PB-TX-0017-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fillmore, Charles W (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0001 | PB-TX-0017-0002 | PB-TX-0017-9000
Fillmore, H Dustin III (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0001 | PB-TX-0017-0002 | PB-TX-0017-9000
Hamilton, Gene Patrick (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0001 | PB-TX-0017-0002 | PB-TX-0017-9000
Mitchell, Jonathan F. (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0001 | PB-TX-0017-0002 | PB-TX-0017-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bauer, Julie A. (Illinois) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Boynton, Brian M (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0003 | PB-TX-0017-0005
Brinson, Kobi K (North Carolina) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Carter, Rebecca Anne (Illinois) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Chen, Randolph T (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Culpepper, Jessica Leigh (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Farby, Lesley (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0003 | PB-TX-0017-0005
Hendler, Scott Martin (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Johnson Cooper, Chase (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Kashyap, Nisha (California) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Knapp, Michael Fraser (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Li-A-Ping, Janelle Alyssa (California) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Lombardi, George (Illinois) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Muraskin, David Samuel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Newton, Emily Sue (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0003 | PB-TX-0017-0005 | PB-TX-0017-9000
Rosenbaum, Mark Dale (California) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Snow, Kyla (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-0003 | PB-TX-0017-0005 | PB-TX-0017-9000
Webber, Rebecca (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Other Lawyers Brender, Arthur J. Jr. (Texas) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Fa, Wencong M (California) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Jordan, Alexandra Marie (Alabama) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Roper, Glenn E (California) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Stokes-Hough, Keisha LaJune (Alabama) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000
Wilcox, Erin Elizabeth (California) show/hide docs
PB-TX-0017-9000

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