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Case Name Faust v. Vilsack PB-WI-0006
Docket / Court 21-548 ( E.D. Wis. )
State/Territory Wisconsin
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 brought challenging the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) classification of “socially disadvantaged groups.”

Five white farmers filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Green Bay) ... read more >
This case is one of several brought challenging the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) classification of “socially disadvantaged groups.”

Five white farmers filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Green Bay) on April 29, 2021. The farmers were all white and were from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The complaint named the Secretary of Agriculture (who leads the USDA) and the administrator of USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) as defendants. Plaintiffs challenged Section 1005 of ARP which offered loan forgiveness only to farmers who qualified as "socially disadvantaged." The USDA, for the purposes of Section 1005, defined a "socially disadvantaged group" as African Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Plaintiffs alleged these racial classifications made them "ineligible to even apply for the program solely due to their race." Plaintiffs alleged violation of the equal protection components of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause and sought declaratory and injunctive relief as well as attorney fees and costs. They were represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, Inc., a self described “conservative organization” which litigates numerous types of cases, including equal protection. Judge William C. Griesbach was assigned to the case.

The government filed a crossclaim on May 4, 2021. They cited plaintiffs' apparent failure to exhaust administrative remedies before filing. Plaintiffs allegedly "did not support their argument with a final agency decision from the Secretary of Agriculture as required by the Administrative Procedures Act."

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on May 19, 2021, adding seven additional farmers from Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon as plaintiffs.

Two motions for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a preliminary injunction were filed by plaintiffs on June 3, 2021. Both sought to enjoin Section 1005's racial classifications. Plaintiffs cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Shaw v. Reno which held that racial classifications "threaten to stigmatize individuals by reason of their membership in a racial group and to incite racial hostility." Plaintiffs argued they and other similar farmers would face irreparable harm both financially and via the stigmatizing effect of Section 1005. Plaintiffs also noted that these motions would "not prevent Congress and/or USDA from continuing to offer [minorities] loan relief; it will simply prohibit offering such relief based solely on unconstitutional racial categories."

Defendants responded to the motion for a TRO on June 8, 2021. They argued that the challenged program was targeted to remedy past discrimination from USDA lending programs. Additionally, they cited apparent evidence that Congress concluded "COVID-19 did not impact all farmers equally - it hit minority farmers hardest." Finally, defendants argued that an immediate injunction was unnecessary as plaintiffs faced no urgent harm. Specifically, the ARP did not set a finite amount of debt relief for farmers. Thus, the relief would not be depleted as this case proceeded.

The court granted plaintiffs' TRO on June 10, 2021. The government was enjoined from forgiving any loans under Section 1005 until the court ruled on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The court reasoned that if it did "not issue an injunction, the USDA will spend the allocated money and forgive the loans of minority farmers while the case is pending and will have no incentive to provide similar relief on an equitable basis to others." Additionally, the court reasoned that plaintiffs were "excluded from the program based on their race and are thus experiencing discrimination at the hands of their government." 2021 WL 2409729.

On July 6, 2021, the court stayed plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The court also dissolved the TRO granted earlier. The court cited Wynn v. Vilsack (PB-FL-0022), another case challenging Section 1005. The Wynn court had issued a nationwide preliminary injunction enjoining Section 1005. This provided the protection sought by plaintiffs in the present case. Thus, a TRO or preliminary relief was "no longer needed to preserve the status quo." 2021 WL 2806204.

Defendants moved to stay all proceedings pending the resolution of the class action challenges to Section 1005 in Miller v. Vilsack (PB-TX-0017) on July 12, 2021. In Miller, the district court had both preliminarily enjoined the enforcement of Section 1005 and certified two classes for farmers bringing similar claims of discrimination.

On August 23, 2021, Judge Griesbach granted the stay the defendants had requested. As of October 2021, the case remains stayed pending the resolution of Miller.

This case is ongoing.

Eric Gripp - 08/10/2021
Jonah Hudson-Erdman - 10/31/2021


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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
Defendant(s) Farm Service Agency
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Plaintiff Description Twelve white farmers from nine states, including Wisconsin.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
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 - 2021
Filed 04/29/2021
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)
  Faust v. Vilsack
Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty
Date: Apr. 29, 2021
(Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
E.D. Wis.
08/25/2021
1:21-cv-00548-WCG
PB-WI-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Wis.
04/29/2021
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-WI-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Wis.
05/19/2021
Amended Complaint [ECF# 7]
PB-WI-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Wis.
06/10/2021
Decision and Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 21] (2021 WL 2409729)
PB-WI-0006-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Wis.
07/06/2021
Order Staying Plaintiffs' Motion for a Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 49] (2021 WL 2806204)
PB-WI-0006-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Wis.
08/23/2021
Decision and Order Granting Defendants' Motion for a Stay [ECF# 66] (2021 WL 4295769)
PB-WI-0006-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Griesbach, William C. (E.D. Wis.) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-0002 | PB-WI-0006-0003 | PB-WI-0006-0005 | PB-WI-0006-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Berg, Luke N. (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-0001 | PB-WI-0006-0004 | PB-WI-0006-9000
Esenberg, Richard M. (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-0001 | PB-WI-0006-0004 | PB-WI-0006-9000
Lennington, Daniel P (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-0001 | PB-WI-0006-0004 | PB-WI-0006-9000
Spitz, Katherine D (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-0001 | PB-WI-0006-0004 | PB-WI-0006-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Knapp, Michael Fraser (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000
Larsen, Christian R (Wisconsin) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000
Newton, Emily Sue (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000
Snow, Kyla (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000
Other Lawyers Chen, Randolph T (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000
Culpepper, Jessica Leigh (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000
Jordan, Alexandra M (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000
Muraskin, David Samuel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000
Stokes-Hough, Keisha LaJune (Alabama) show/hide docs
PB-WI-0006-9000

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