United States District Court, D. Columbia.
Rodney Bradshaw, Individual and Black American Citizen, Plaintiff, Pro se, Jetmore, KS USA.
For Rodney Bradshaw, Individual and Black American Citizen, Plaintiff: J. Robert Robertson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kelly A. Quinn, HOGAN LOVELLS U.S. LLP, Washington, DC USA; Nathaniel H. Nesbitt, PRO HAC VICE, HOGAN LOVELL U.S. LLP, Washington, DC USA.
Thomas J. Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture, Defendant, Pro se.
OPINION AND ORDER
PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Rodney Bradshaw claims that the Farm Service Agency (" FSA" ) discriminated against him on the basis of race in connection with his efforts to obtain farm loans, in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq. The United States Department of Agriculture (" USDA" ) has filed a motion for summary judgment, which is now before the Court. Upon consideration of the arguments made by the parties in their papers and in open court, as well as the relevant legal authorities and the entire record in this case, the Court will grant in part and deny in part USDA's motion.
Rodney Bradshaw is an African American man who has farmed in southwest Kansas since 1975. He received a farm ownership loan in 1979 from the Farmers Home Administration, FSA's predecessor agency, which he used to purchase 80 acres of land. Pl.'s Resp. Stmt. of Facts ¶ 1. Mr. Bradshaw later received other loans from FSA in 1980, 1985, and 1996. Id. ¶ 2. By 2002, he and his wife Arzella were farming nearly 3,000 acres, on which they reared cattle and raised crops including wheat, milo, and sorghum. Pl.'s Opp. at 1. Mr. Bradshaw also was a Track A claimant in the Pigford class action, and in 1998 he ceased making payments on his FSA loans because he believed, based on the advice of counsel, that his participation in that lawsuit would include debt forgiveness. Pl.'s Resp. Stmt. of Facts ¶ 3. In June of 2002, based on Mr. Bradshaw's complaints to USDA about his treatment by FSA officials, his borrower file was transferred from FSA's office in Ness City, Kansas to its office in Oakley, Kansas. Id. ¶ 4. Since that transfer, his file has been handled by FSA Farm Loan Manager Dwight Jurey. Id.
This case was initiated in 2004 and, due to difficulties arising from the behavior of Mr. Bradshaw's original counsel, Mr. James Myart, Jr., only now has reached the summary judgment stage. After Mr. Myart was terminated from the bar of this Court in 2008, Mr. Bradshaw proceeded pro se until April 2013, when this Court appointed attorneys from the law firm Hogan Lovells as pro bono counsel to represent him. Bradshaw v. Vilsack, Civil Action No. 04-1422, 2013 WL 1716502 (D.D.C. Apr. 18, 2013). The parties then engaged in discovery, and USDA subsequently filed the pending motion for summary judgment.
Under this Court's Order of July 14, 2005 [Dkt. No. 36] and its Memorandum Opinion and Order of March 13, 2006 [Dkt. Nos. 48 & 49], the claims in this case are limited to the period from August 23, 2002 to May 2005. Pl.'s Opp. at 2; USDA MSJ at 11. Mr. Bradshaw asserts three specific claims. First, he contends that he applied for an FSA loan in 2002 but ultimately never received that loan, and he maintains that he did not receive the loan because of his race. Second, Mr. Bradshaw asserts that in 2004 FSA discouraged him from applying for any more loans, also due to his race. Finally, Mr. Bradshaw alleges that in 2005 he was similarly discouraged with respect to his application for a real estate subordination loan. USDA has moved for summary judgment on all claims.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Summary judgment is appropriate when " the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c). In making that determination, the court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866, 188 L.Ed.2d 895 (2014) (per curiam); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255; Talavera v. Shah, 638 F.3d 303, 308, 395 U.S.App.D.C. 7 (D.C. Cir. 2011). A disputed fact is " material" if it " might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Talavera v. Shah, 638 F.3d at 308 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248). A dispute over a material fact is " genuine" if it could lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007); Paige v. DEA, 665 F.3d 1355, 1358, 398 U.S.App.D.C. 492 (D.C. Cir. 2012). " [T]he moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if the nonmoving party 'fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.'" Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895, 369 U.S.App.D.C. 122 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). " Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge at summary judgment. Thus, [the court] do[es] not determine the truth of the matter, but instead decide[s] only whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Barnett v. PA Consulting Group, Inc., 715 F.3d 354, 358, 404 U.S.App.D.C. 439 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (quoting Pardo-Kronemann v. Donovan, 601 F.3d 599, 604, 390 U.S.App.D.C. 178 (D.C. Cir. 2010)); see also Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. at 1866; Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249, 255.
As noted above, Mr. Bradshaw advances three claims against USDA for discrimination in connection with: (1) a loan application submitted in 2002, from which Mr. Bradshaw never received any funds; (2) alleged discouragement from applying for loans in 2004; and (3) alleged discouragement with respect to a 2005 real estate ...