("ECOA"); and a claim for fraud and misrepresentation.
The Secretary's Motion for Judgment, in Part, on the Pleadings asserts that all of the plaintiffs' claims for damages (except those brought under ECOA) are barred by sovereign immunity and should be dismissed; and that plaintiffs' claims under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, and under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 2000d, state no cause of action and should also be dismissed.
The plaintiffs have withdrawn their claims for damages (1) under the Fifth Amendment; (2) under §§ 1981 and 1982; and (3) for fraud and misrepresentation. They have also abandoned all of their claims under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court will grant the Secretary's motion with respect to these claims as unopposed.
Two contested claims remain: the plaintiffs' claim for equitable relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981") and their claims under Title VI.
A. 42 U.S.C. § 1981
Section 1981 gives all citizens of the United States "the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts . . . as is enjoyed by white citizens . . . ." Section 1981(c), which was added to § 1981 by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, further provides that "the rights protected by this section are protected against impairment by nongovernmental discrimination and impairment under color of State law." (emphasis added).
The Secretary points out that the discrimination alleged here took place under federal law: the FmHA is said to have discriminated in connection with the plaintiffs' federal farm loan applications. Thus, argues the Secretary, because the alleged discrimination here is neither "nongovernmental" nor "under color of State law," the plaintiffs' claim under § 1981 is precluded by the plain language of § 1981(c).
The Court agrees that the plain language of § 1981(c) bars the plaintiffs' claim of federal discrimination. While specifically providing that rights under the statute are protected against impairment by private entities and impairment "under color of State law," § 1981(c) does not address impairment by the federal government. There is no indication that the statute's designation of impairment by private entities and impairment "under color of State law" is meant to be merely suggestive or illustrative; § 1981(c) does not use language such as "including" or "for example" which would compel such an open-ended reading of the statute. See Puerto Rico Maritime Shipping Authority v. I.C.C., 207 U.S. App. D.C. 177, 645 F.2d 1102 (D.D.C. 1981) (use of the word "including" indicates that the list which follows is illustrative, not exclusive). Indeed, it is instructive to compare § 1981(c) with § 1981(b), which provides, illustratively, that "the term 'make and enforce contracts' includes the making, performance, modification, and termination of contracts . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b) (emphasis added). Where Congress includes language in one section of a statute but omits it in another section of the same statute, "it is generally presumed that Congress acts intentionally and purposely in the disparate inclusion or exclusion." Brown v. Gardner, 513 U.S. 115, 130 L. Ed. 2d 462, 115 S. Ct. 552, 556 (1994).
The plaintiffs do not seriously contest that the language of § 1981(c) bars their claim here; they don't analyze or even mention the key statutory language in any of their briefs. Rather, concentrating on legislative history and statements of legislative "purpose" found elsewhere in the statute, they assert that the statute can't possibly mean what it says. The plaintiffs argue that: (1) before the 1991 amendment, the courts permitted § 1981 suits involving discrimination by the federal government
; (2) the legislative history does not reveal a Congressional intent to forbid suits involving federal discrimination; (3) the legislative history and statutory statements of purpose suggest that Congress intended to expand federal remedies under § 1981, not restrict them; (4) therefore, Congress could not have intended to eliminate the right to sue under § 1981 for the federal government's discrimination; (5) the statute, then, must be construed to permit such suits, because to do otherwise would lead to an absurd result. See United States v. American Trucking Assoc., Inc., 310 U.S. 534, 543, 84 L. Ed. 1345, 60 S. Ct. 1059 (1940).
However, the "strong presumption" that a statute's plain language expresses congressional intent is rebutted only in "rare and exceptional circumstances," where a contrary legislative intent is "clearly expressed." Ardestani v. I.N.S., 502 U.S. 129, 112 S. Ct. 515, 520, 116 L. Ed. 2d 496 (1991) (internal citations omitted). See also Ratzlaf v. United States, 510 U.S. 135, 114 S. Ct. 655, 662, 126 L. Ed. 2d 615 (1994) ("we do not resort to legislative history to cloud a statutory text that is clear").
Here, § 1981(c)'s scant legislative history states only that subsection (c) "codifies the holding of Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 49 L. Ed. 2d 415, 96 S. Ct. 2586 (1976), under which section 1981 prohibits private, as well as governmental, discrimination." 137 Cong. Rec. S 15, 473 (Oct. 30, 1991) (statement of Sen. Dole); 137 Cong. Rec. H 9,543 (Nov. 7. 1991) (statement of Rep. Hyde); see also 137 Cong. Rec. H 9,526 (Nov. 7, 1991) (statement of Rep. Edwards). Although the term "governmental" certainly could refer to discrimination by the federal government, it is not clear that it does. Section 1981(c)'s inconclusive
legislative history fails to overcome the "strong presumption" that § 1981(c)'s clear statutory language expresses Congress's intent. Ardestani v. I.N.S., 502 U.S. 129, 112 S. Ct. 515, 520, 116 L. Ed. 2d 496 (1991).
Nor does any other language in the Civil Rights Act of 1991 trump the specific language of § 1981(c). It is true that Congress's statement of the Act's purposes indicates an intent to "[expand] the scope of relevant civil rights statutes" in response to recent Supreme Court cases which Congress saw as weakening federal civil rights protections. See 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (note). However, the Court does not have the authority to rewrite a clear, specific statutory provision even if it believed that such a provision was inconsistent with a general statement of purpose. Aeron Marine Shipping Co. v. United States, 224 U.S. App. D.C. 373, 695 F.2d 567, 576 (D.C. Cir. 1982) (if there is an "inescapable conflict" between general and specific statutory provisions, the specific will prevail).
The Court must "presume that a legislature says in a statute what it means and means in a statute what it says there." Connecticut Nat'l Bank v. Germain, 503 U.S. 249, 253-54, 117 L. Ed. 2d 391, 112 S. Ct. 1146 (1992). Even if the Court suspected that Congress did not intend to preclude § 1981 suits for federal discrimination, the law has long been settled that except under extraordinary circumstances, the Court must apply the plain language of the statute. Sturges v. Crowninshield, 17 U.S. 122, 4 L. Ed. 529, 4 Wheat. 122 (1819) ("in most cases, the plain meaning of a provision not contradicted by any other provision in the same instrument, is not to be disregarded because we believe the framers of the instrument could not intend what they say"); United States v. Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 96, 85 L. Ed. 2d 64, 105 S. Ct. 1785 (1985) (courts are not licensed "to attempt to soften the clear import of Congress' chosen words whenever a court believes those words lead to a harsh result"). Weighing the inconclusive legislative history and the statute's general statement of purpose against plain, unambiguous statutory language, the Court must apply the plain language of the statute
and dismiss the plaintiffs' § 1981 claim
because the plaintiffs do not allege impairment of rights by nongovernmental discrimination or impairment under color of state law.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1981(c). See also Locke, 471 U.S. 84, 96, 85 L. Ed. 2d 64, 105 S. Ct. 1785 ("deference to the supremacy of the Legislature, as well as recognition that Congressmen typically vote on the language of a bill, generally requires us to assume that the legislative purpose is expressed by the ordinary meaning of the words used").
B. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
The plaintiffs also seek relief under 42 U.S.C. § 2000d et seq., commonly known as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI provides:
No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.