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$760 Million Settlement Between Indians and USDA Is Finalized
Posted By David Stout On April 28, 2011 @ 1:37 pm In News | Comments Disabled
A $760 million settlement between the Department of Agriculture and American Indian farmers and ranchers over discriminatory policies at the agriculture agency received final court approval on Thursday, ending more than a decade of litigation.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia called the terms historic, fair and appropriate, according to  The Blog of Legal Times. The settlement is also a victory for the plaintiffs’ lawyers: Sullivan said the lawyers can split $60.8 million in fees, twice what the Department of Justice had recommended.
The final settlement includes $680 million in damages and $80 million in debt relief. (The preliminary agreement was reported upon by Main Justice last fall.)
The long-running lawsuit on behalf of Indians alleged that the government, between 1981 and 2007, denied Native American farmers and ranchers the same opportunities as others to obtain low-interest rate loans from the government.
Joseph Sellers, a partner with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC  and lead counsel in the class action, said the final approval “marks the end of an unfortunate chapter in our nation’s history where USDA’s credit discrimination against Native Americans was the norm,” the BLT said.
The Department of Agriculture has also reached settlements with black farmers and ranchers, women and Hispanics who alleged discrimination in loans and other benefits from the agency.
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