In closing one of the biggest discrimination cases in American history, a 1.2 billion dollar agreement, unclaimed funds are being considered as donations to law schools or non-profit organizations. This was the decision of the presiding U.S. District judge John Friedman.
The exact amount left unclaimed is not known but is estimated to be approx. $10,000,000. The total settlement amount was due to be given to about 18,000 farmers who participated in the large class action law suit. They argued that they were the victims of wide spread discrimination by the officials of the U.S. Agriculture Department. They claimed that they were denied loans and other assistance due to the color of their skin. The courts agreed which led to the final settlement amount.
Roughly 40,000 black farmers filed claims with about 18,000 receiving their share in 2016. The payout per farmer is $62,500 which breaks down to $50,000 for the claim and $12,500 for taxes. Sadly, many of the farmers have passed away since the claim was filed, so of the 18,000 receiving funds in this round about 4-5,000 were estate claims. The family members of these farmers are working with the National Black Farmer Association to receive their departed loved ones’ share of the settlement.
The next phase of this case is to determine exactly who will be the recipient of the unclaimed money. While lawyers for both the claimants and the government argued that Judge Friedman did not have the authority to change the terms of the agreement, there is a clause that allows for cy pres. Cy pres is French meaning as near as’ and these words allow a judge to give any unclaimed amount to non-profit organizations.
But who gets the money is not known at this time nor how much will go to each law school or non-profit organization. That is a matter still left up to those involved including the judge as a clause in the agreement does not make specific references but only allows for those two generic options.