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Case Name Holman v. Vilsack PB-TN-0011
Docket / Court 1:21-cv-1085 ( W.D. Tenn. )
State/Territory Tennessee
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.”

In March 2021, during the early months of the Biden Administration, Congress passed the American Reuse Plan Act ( ... 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.”

In March 2021, during the early months of the Biden Administration, Congress passed the American Reuse Plan Act (ARPA). ARPA was a large package of government programs aimed at combatting COVID-19 and stimulating the economy. Sections 1005 and 1006 of the ARPA directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Farm Services Agency (FSA) to forgive loans made to “socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers.” 7 U.S.C. § 2279(a)(6) defines socially disadvantaged to mean “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.”

On June 2, 2021, a white Tennessee farmer filed this lawsuit challenging Sections 1005 and 1006 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee’s Eastern Division. He alleged that the socially disadvantaged group category was a racial classification and its inclusion in the ARPA denied him government benefits because of his race. The plaintiff claimed that this policy violated the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment. (The Supreme Court held in Bolling v. Shape, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), that this provision applies the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause to the federal government through reverse incorporation.) He requested that the court grant declaratory and injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and nominal damages of $1.00.

After the case was filed, it was wheeled out to Chief District Judge S. Thomas Anderson. The plaintiff was represented by attorneys from the Southeastern Legal Foundation and the Mountain States Legal Foundation, who have filed similar cases in other courts, including: Carpenter v. Vilsack and Rogers v. Vilsack.

Shortly after filing, the plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction. After a hearing in late June, Judge Anderson granted the plaintiff’s motion in a July 8, 2021 order and enjoined the loan forgiveness payments in question. 2021 WL 2877915. He found that the plaintiff had shown a substantial likelihood on his claim that Section 1005 of the ARPA violated his Equal Projection rights. In his opinion, Judge Anderson noted several other challenges to the ARPA which where courts had reached similar results: Vitolo v. Guzman (999 F.3d 353), Faust v. Vilsack (519 F.Supp.3d 470), Wynn v. Vilsack (2021 WL 2580678), and Miller v. Vilsack.

The USDA and the FSA then moved to stay the case while other challenges to Section 1005 were litigated. Their main complaint was the Miller, where a Texas federal court had enjoined the implementation of the statute and certified classes of farmers and ranchers who might have been entitled to ARPA benefits. Judge Anderson denied that motion in an August 2, 2021 order. 2021 WL 3354169. He reasoned that the Sixth Circuit opinion in Vitolo, where the court of appeals had enjoined a similar program administered by the Small Business Administration, was binding precedent in his court, but not binding in Texas. He also noted that there were differences between claims made by this plaintiff and the plaintiffs in Miller.

After Judge Anderson stayed litigation in Joyner v. Vilsack, another challenge to Section 1005 filed in Tennessee, the government moved for reconsideration of his previous decision not to stay the case. In an order on October 22, 2021, Judge Anderson partially granted that motion and stayed discovery until he could decide a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants. However, as of October 31, 2021, no such motion has been filed.

The case remains pending.

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
Due Process
Equal Protection
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Government Services (specify)
Public benefits (includes, e.g., in-state tuition, govt. jobs)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
White
Causes of Action Ex Parte Young (Federal) or Bivens
Defendant(s) Farm Services Agency
United States Department of Agriculture
Plaintiff Description A white farmer in western Tennesse
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 06/02/2021
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Holman V. Vilsack
Mountain States Legal Foundations
Date: Aug. 2, 2021
By: Mountain States Legal Foundations
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Holman v. Vilsak
Southeastern Legal Foundation
Date: Aug. 2, 2021
By: Southeastern Legal Foundation
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
W.D. Tenn.
11/08/2021
1:21-cv-01085-STA-jay
PB-TN-0011-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Tenn.
06/02/2021
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PB-TN-0011-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
07/08/2021
Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 41] (2021 WL 2877915)
PB-TN-0011-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | External Link | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
08/02/2021
Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Resolution of Related Class Action [ECF# 49] (2021 WL 3354169)
PB-TN-0011-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | External Link | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Tenn.
10/22/2021
Order Partially Granting Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration [ECF# 59]
PB-TN-0011-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Anderson, Stanley Thomas (W.D. Tenn.) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-0002 | PB-TN-0011-0003 | PB-TN-0011-0004 | PB-TN-0011-9000
York, Jon A. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bartkus, Corey Christopher (Colorado) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000
Boucek, Braden H (Georgia) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-0001 | PB-TN-0011-9000
O'Leary, Celia Howard (Georgia) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000
Trachman, William Edward (Colorado) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Calkins, Audrey M (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000
Newton, Emily Sue (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000
Snow, Kyla (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000
Other Lawyers Chen, Randolph T (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000
Muraskin, David Samuel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PB-TN-0011-9000

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