Pigford v. Vilsack
Complex Settlements, P.C., is a professional corporation formed in 2003 by Ms. Roth, who served as monitor in Pigford v. Vilsack. At the time, Pigford was the largest civil rights settlement in the history of the United States. The case involved $1.1 billion in payouts to a class of African-American farmers who alleged race discrimination in federal credit and benefit programs. The Honorable Paul L. Friedman of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia presided over the case.
In Pigford, each of the approximately 22,000 individual claimants had a chance to prove to an adjudicator or arbitrator that he or she was a victim of discrimination. Once each claim was decided, both parties to the claim had the opportunity to appeal (“petition”). Petitions were filed in more than 5,800 of the claims. The monitor’s office had four main functions:
- Petitions. The monitor’s office designed an appeals process and an internal law of the case for the petitions process. The office wrote detailed, fact-specific appeals decisions in approximately 5,800 cases.
- Calls. The monitor’s office subcontracted with a class action administration firm to handle its call center. At the height of the work, the center was handling more than 3,000 calls per month; many of the calls were quite complex. The office did all scripting for the call center and engaged in quality control for the call center.
- Problem solving. The monitor’s office was responsible for solving any problems that any of the 22,000 claimants had with the implementation of the consent decree. The office fulfilled these responsibilities in two ways. First, the office worked on the road, meeting with groups of claimants and claimant organizations in the rural South. Second, the office convened and led frequent meetings of the parties’ lawyers and the neutrals to work out solutions to systemic implementation problems.
- Court reports. The office discharged its responsibility for reporting to the Court and the Secretary of Agriculture about the good faith implementation of the consent decree by filing dozens of reports with the Court. The reports were posted on the monitor’s website, which is now accessible to the public on the Court’s website.
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