May 14, 2018

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it won't rethink denying review of a D.C. Circuit decision that allows for the redistribution of $380 million left over from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s landmark Keepseagle settlement of racial discrimination claims.

 The high court denied a bid for rehearing of an order that had denied a petition for a writ of certiorari from Donivon Craig Tingle, who is part of the class in the landmark Keepseagle settlement over claims that a USDA loan program discriminated against Native American farmers and ranchers. Tingle had asked for rehearing after the justices in March denied petitions filed by both Tingle and class representative Keith Mandan that sought to overturn a D.C. Circuit decision that allows the redistribution of the leftover funds.

 Mandan and Tingle had filed separate petitions to the high court in December, arguing that a decision by the D.C. Circuit unfairly permitted the modification of the cy pres provisions of the $680 million Keepseagle deal to distribute much of the unclaimed funds to nonprofit organizations and a trust instead of giving more money to those who previously received payouts through the deal.

The 2010 Keepseagle deal resolved a long-running class action from lead plaintiff Marilyn Keepseagle and others claiming that a USDA loan program favored white farmers over Native American farmers for almost two decades.

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"Hopefully the court’s action today removed the last obstacle to implementing the plan for distribution of the cy pres funds in this case," Joseph M. Sellers, an attorney for the class, told Law360 on Monday. "We have already begun the distribution of those funds having received the order from the Supreme Court today, and we hope those funds will be distributed over the course of the summer and eventually put to work to help native farmers and ranchers across the country as they were designed to do."

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The class is represented by Joseph M. Sellers and Christine E. Webber of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, Jessica Ring Amunson and Andrew C. Noll of Jenner & Block LLP, David J. Frantz of Conlon Frantz & Phelan LLP and Sarah Vogel and Phillip L. Fraas.

The complete article can be accessed here.