Wednesday, June 20, 2018

V. CONCLUSION

It is beyond debate that slavery has caused tremendous suffering and ineliminable scars throughout our Nation's history. No reasonable person can fail to recognize the malignant impact, in body and spirit, on the millions of human beings held as slaves in the United States. Neither can any reasonable person, however, fail to appreciate the massive, comprehensive, and dedicated undertaking of the free to liberate the enslaved and preserve the Union. Millions fought in our Civil War. Approximately six hundred and twenty thousand died. Three hundred and sixty thousand of these individuals were Union troops. Union soldiers, sailors, and marines gave their lives on bloody battlefields and the sea to maintain one sovereign nation in which slavery would be eradicated. The impact of this struggle on the families of the wounded and the dead was immeasurable and lasting. The victorious and the vanquished together shared the cup of suffering. Death deprived the youthful warriors of the opportunities that survivors of the War would enjoy. The impact of this struggle on the Union as a whole was also significant. The enslavers in the United States who resisted or failed to end human chattel slavery sustained great personal and economic loss during and following the four years of the War. Generations of Americans were burdened with paying the social, political, and financial costs of this horrific War.

Finally, in 1865, this great human and economic tragedy ended. The ultimate objectives, the preservation of the Union and the eradication of slavery, were accomplished. The “yoke of bondage” was removed from Garrison Frazier, to whom we earlier referred, and millions of other slaves. The freed slaves then began another journey, this time not from captivity to slavery, but from slavery to citizenship and equality under the law. All of the participants had endured great suffering in this momentous conflict. It takes little imagination to understand the tremendous disruption and destabilization the Civil War caused America's existing social and political institutions. And yet, the dark clouds following the War were giving way to a future brighter than the great majority could have imagined in 1865. The extremely difficult task of amending the Constitution three times was accomplished in approximately five years, granting former slaves freedom, citizenship, and the right to vote. The citizens of the Union would move onward to meet the challenge made by President Lincoln on March 4, 1865, “to achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves and with all nations.”

Plaintiffs' Complaint, which seeks reparations for Defendants' alleged roles in chattel slavery, the institution that precipitated this great conflict, fails based on numerous well-settled legal principles. First, Plaintiffs' claims are beyond the constitutional authority of this court. Without alleging any specific connection between themselves and the named Defendants, Plaintiffs lack essential constitutional standing requirements to bring their claims. Second, prudential limitations prohibit the court from deciding such broad questions of social importance when such claims are brought on behalf of absent third parties, as Plaintiffs attempt here. Third, the long-standing and well-reasoned political question doctrine bars the court from deciding the issue of slavery reparations, an issue that has been historically and constitutionally committed to the Legislative and Executive branches of our government. *781 Fourth, Plaintiffs' claims are untimely. Conceding that many of the torts alleged in the Complaint occurred prior to the formal end of slavery, Plaintiffs fail to show how any of these claims fall within the applicable statutes of limitations. Finally, under the rules of procedure which guide the federal judicial system, Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a serious defect the court cannot overlook regardless how egregious the circumstances giving rise to the claims.

In summary, Plaintiffs' attempt to bring these claims more than a century after the end of the Civil War and the formal abolition of slavery fails; this determination is consistent with the position taken by numerous courts which have considered the issue over the last century. Ultimately, the legal obstacles prohibiting judicial resolution of such claims cannot be circumvented by the courts. Moreover, from the onset of the Civil War until present, the historical record clearly shows that the President and Congress have the constitutional authority to determine the nature and scope of the relief sought in this case, not the courts. This is historically manifested in the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the enactment of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and the promulgation of over a century of civil rights legislation and governmental programs. The sensitive ear has heard the collective “thank you” from those who were freed, as well as the historic apologies in words and deeds from persons of good will for the evils of slavery.

The court therefore finds that the defects in Plaintiffs' Second Consolidated and Amended Complaint cannot be cured by further amendment. For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6) is granted with prejudice.\

 

IT IS SO ORDERED.

 

Footnotes

1

Some Northern state statutes, however, stood firmly in opposition to slavery. See infra Part II.E (discussing the Personal Liberty Laws enacted in Northern States).

2

“The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.” U.S. Const. art I, § 9, cl. 1.

3

The citations in this Opinion are to the paragraphs as styled in Plaintiffs' Complaint; however, in certain instances the numbering of paragraphs does not proceed in chronological order.

4

Farmer–Paellmann alleges that she is the “great-great-granddaughter of Clara and Abel Hinds, Africans who were enslaved on a South Carolina sea island rice plantation.” See SCAC, ¶ 65.

5

Madison alleges that her “ancestors were slaves in the agricultural, cotton, and tobacco industry in Virginia and North Carolina.” See SCAC, ¶ 68.

6

Carrington alleges that his maternal and paternal ancestors “were slaves in North Carolina, and ... were involved in the cotton and tobacco industries.” See SCAC, ¶ 71.

7

The Estate of Edlee Bankhead alleges that Bankhead's parents were enslaved in Mississippi. See SCAC, ¶ 74.

8

Barber alleges that his ancestors were born into slavery, and were enslaved in the agricultural industry and other industries. See SCAC, ¶¶ 76–79.

9

Hurdle–Toomey alleges that her father, Andrew Jackson Hurdle, was a slave who was sold into slavery when he was ten years old. See SCAC, ¶ 81.

10

Porter alleges that her great grandmother, Hettie Pierce, was a slave in North Carolina. See SCAC, ¶ 84.

11

Wyatt–Kervin alleges that she is the daughter of former slaves, Jake and Louise Wyatt. See SCAC, ¶ 85.

12

Clark's Estate alleges that Clark was a slave in Louisiana from 1927–1934. See SCAC, ¶ 86.

13

McGee alleges that she is the “great grand-daughter of Andrew Jackson Hurdle, an enslaved African.” See SCAC, ¶ 90.

14

See SCAC, ¶¶ 92–100.

15

Miller alleges that she is a descendant of a former slave, Carrie Richardson. See SCAC, ¶ 102.

16

Plaintiffs refer to a proposed class of plaintiffs, and assert that this suit may be brought as a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b). See SCAC, ¶ 49. Plaintiffs have not, however, filed any separate motion for class certification pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

17

Loews Corporation does not join in the present motion to dismiss. Loews has filed a separate motion to dismiss, based on grounds it asserts are unique to it.

18

Plaintiffs allege Count IV twice. The first Count IV is styled “Replevin.” The second Count IV is styled “42 U.S.C. § 1982.”

19

Plaintiffs include no Count VIII.

20

Loews Corporation has not joined in the present Motion to Dismiss. Loews Corporation has filed a separate Motion to Dismiss, to which Plaintiffs have failed to reply. The court therefore dismisses this action as to Defendant Loews Corporation, pursuant to Local Rule 78.3.

21

Defendants incorporate by reference their previous Memorandum in Support of Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiffs' First Consolidated and Amended Complaint (hereinafter “Mem. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss I”) into their present Memorandum.

22

Plaintiffs do not, however, allege that these specific Plaintiffs were enslaved by Defendants or any predecessors-in-interest of Defendants. Even if these allegations were true, any harms suffered by these specific Plaintiffs are not “fairly traceable” to the Defendants. See Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560–61, 112 S.Ct. 2130. Such allegations are therefore insufficient to confer standing on these specific Plaintiffs. See id.

23

Several of the named Plaintiffs allege to have been slaves during the twentieth century, but also fail to establish standing to sue Defendants for their alleged injuries. See discussion infra at n. 22, and 750.

24

Plaintiffs make this argument in their Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss, 9–10 (hereinafter “Mem. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss I”). Plaintiffs “incorporate by reference” their Mem. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss I into their present Mem. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss II.

25

In fact, courts give special treatment to pro se litigation. See, e.g., Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972) (holding that allegations of pro se complaints are held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers”); see also Castro v. United States, 540 U.S. 375, 381–82, 124 S.Ct. 786, 791–92, 157 L.Ed.2d 778 (2003) (indicating that while holding pro se complaints to less stringent standards, courts may recharacterize such motions in order to avoid unnecessary dismissal or inappropriately stringent application of formal labeling requirements).

26

In support of their position, Plaintiffs rely on Kadic v. Karadzic, 70 F.3d 232 (2nd Cir.1995), a case which is clearly distinguishable from the present case. In Kadic, the Second Circuit declined to dismiss the plaintiffs' claims under the Alien Tort Claims Act alleging gross human rights abuses against a Bosnian Serb leader on the basis of the political question doctrine. 70 F.3d at 250. The Kadic court cautioned that “judges should not reflexively invoke these doctrines to avoid difficult and somewhat sensitive decisions ...” and added that “[a]lthough these cases present issues that arise in a politically charged context, that does not transform them into cases involving non-justiciable political questions.” Id. at 249. However, in reaching its decision, the Kadic court stated that it did not have to decide the issue of whether judicial involvement would interfere with actions of other branches of the federal government because the court obtained a “ ‘Statement of Interest’ ” signed by both the Solicitor General and the State Department's Legal Advisor expressly disclaiming any concern that the political question doctrine should be invoked. Id. at 250. No such “Statement of Interest” has been or could be sought in the present case.

27

Because there were questions as to whether the Thirteenth Amendment authorized the Civil Rights Act of 1866, Congress ratified the Fourteenth Amendment on July 9, 1868, rendering the issue moot. See U.S. Const. amend XIV.

28

In Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Supreme Court declared the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and broadly held that slaves were property, not citizens. 60 U.S. 393, 15 L.Ed. 691 (1856). The Court's ruling established that slaves were not entitled to all of the rights, privileges and immunities guaranteed to all citizens under the Constitution. Id., 60 U.S. at 404–405.

29

The court notes that although Congress intended to give African–Americans the right to vote by ratifying the Fifteenth Amendment, the Amendment itself did not guarantee such a result. State and local laws requiring poll taxes, literary tests, residence and registration requirements, and “grandfather clauses” acted as impediments to this right. See Blaustein and Zangrando, supra at 245–46. Many of these issues were not resolved until decades later when the United States Supreme Court became involved in the issue and Congress passed the Voting Acts Rights Act of 1965. Id. However, to help illustrate the seriousness of Congress' efforts to assimilate the newly freed slaves into society, the court notes that the African–American male was given the right to vote fifty years prior to Congress' ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. See U.S. Const. amend. XIX.

30

In fact the Representative Branches continue to consider the issue of reparations to descendants of slaves. In 1989, and in each successive year, Congressman John Conyers has introduced a Reparations Study Bill, commonly referred to as H.R. 40. See, e.g., Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, H.R. 3745, 101st Cong. (1989); Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African–Americans Act, H.R. 40, 108th Cong. (2003). This Reparations Study Bill provides, inter alia, for the formation of a commission to study human chattel slavery and its continuing impact on African descendants in the United States today. See, e.g., H.R. 3745, § 2(b)(1)-(3), 101st Cong. (1989). The bill also calls for the commission to recommend the form that reparations should take if it indeed finds there to be continuing injuries to African descendants. See id. at § 2(b)(5).

31

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was a figure endowed with the gift of prophecy but fated never to be believed.

32

Plaintiffs argue that President Bush recently gave “implicit support” for their claims in a major policy speech given on Goree Island in Senegal on July 8, 2003, where he declared that slavery was “one of the greatest crimes in history.” See Mem. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss I, at 31; Mem. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss II, at 1. Plaintiffs fail to develop this argument or support it in any way. See United States v. Jones, 224 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir.2000) (stating that courts should not consider undeveloped or unsupported arguments). In any event, Plaintiffs' use of the President's speech is not persuasive because such statements may support the proposition that the Representative branches of our government should continue their historical efforts to advance civil rights for all citizens.

33

Also reflecting on the purposes served by statutes of limitations, the Supreme Court once stated: “Statutes of limitations always have vexed the philosophical mind for it is difficult to fit them into a completely logical and symmetrical system of law.” Chase Sec. Corp. v. Donaldson, 325 U.S. 304, 313, 65 S.Ct. 1137.

34

The court notes that neither Plaintiffs nor Defendants engage in a choice of law analysis. As to Plaintiffs' state law claims, the court normally would apply the choice of law principles of the state in which each transferor court sits. See Ferens v. John Deere Co., 494 U.S. 516, 518–19, 110 S.Ct. 1274, 108 L.Ed.2d 443 (1990) (indicating that in actions transferred pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1407(a), the transferee court applies the choice of law principles of the state where the transferor court sits for an analysis of state law claims). The court notes that the vagueness of Plaintiffs' Complaint prevents a thorough choice of law analysis.

35

Plaintiffs allege two separate versions of “Count IV.”

36

Nothing in Plaintiffs' Complaint suggests that these State consumer law claims were even remotely contemplated by any Defendant or predecessor during the time slavery existed as an institution in the United States. The court also notes that Plaintiffs' first Complaint alleged Counts of Accounting and the Alien Torts Claims Act. The court found that these Claims were also barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. See In re Slave Descendants Litigation, 304 F.Supp.2d 1027, 1068–1070 (N.D.Ill.2004).

 

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