Judge Friedman wants to know why so many claimants are receiving vague denial letters so late in the process from the Claims Administrator. He’s demanding some answers…
Over the past several weeks, at least 509 claimants have received denial letters from the Claims Administrator dated July 11, 2013. The letters state “YOU ARE NOT A CLASS MEMBER” and go on to state “Your claim is DENIED because: You failed to prove that you have not already obtained a determination on the merits of your discrimination complaint.”
On July 29, 2013, a network of black farmer advocate organizations collectively known as the Network of Black Farm Groups and Advocates (“NBFGA”) sent the Court a letter raising concerns with these denial letters.
NBFGA argues that these claimants never actually obtained a determination on the merits of their claims. According to NBFGA, these denied claimants fall into three categories:
- Those claimants who filed late in the Pigford I claim period and who’s claims were determined to be “late” but were never reviewed by an adjudicator;
- Those claimants who filed an incomplete form in Pigford I and were determined to be “late” in submitting a corrected form and therefore never had their claim reviewed by an adjudicator;
- Those claimants who were allowed into Pigford I by Michael Lewis, Chief Arbitrator, because their reasons for being late met the test of extraordinary circumstances, but by the time they received this determination, they were told that they were too “late” to get a claim form in Pigford I.
Further, all of these denied claimants were placed on the 5g list as eligible to participate in Pigford II and received all appropriate correspondence other 5g list claimants received.
NBFGA argues that these denied claimants have never had their claims reviewed or evaluated, on their merits, by an adjudicator in Pigford I or a neutral judge in Pigford II. They state it would be unfair to allow them to believe they were eligible class members until receiving the July 11, 2013 denial letter.
NBFGA urgently requests that Judge Friedman “review and reconsider the unjust disqualification of these 509 farmer-claimants and have their claims reviewed by the neutrals for a determination on the merits of their claims.”
The group acknowledges that such a review may “delay payments to all participants for an additional, hopefully short, period of time”. Further, they acknowledge that if these denied claimants are approved, the award amount for all claimants may be reduced on a pro rata basis but feel that “simple justice calls for the inclusion of these claimants in the full Pigford II decision and damage awards process.”
On July 31, 2013, Judge Friedman issued an order requiring a representative of the Claims Administrator to file an affidavit explaining the circumstances of the claimants who were recently notified about their lack of membership in the settlement class, along with an explanation of the Claims Administrator’s determination that these claimants are not part of the settlement class by August 5, 2013.
Further, the Judge ordered that within three days of the filing of the Claims Administrator’s affidavit, the parties may, if they wish, file responses to the affidavit and state their positions, if any, regarding the class membership decisions at issue.