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Judicial Watch, Inc. is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, which promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.

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Judicial Watch Files Class Action Lawsuit over Reparations

Evanston, Illinois Directs $25,000 Payments Exclusively to Blacks

(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today it filed a class action lawsuit against Evanston, Illinois, on behalf of six individuals over the city’s use of race as an eligibility requirement for a reparations program which makes $25,000 payments to black residents and descendants of black residents who lived in Evanston between the years 1919 and 1969. The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division (Flinn et al. v Evanston (No. 1:24-cv-04269)).

The class action, civil rights lawsuit challenges “on Equal Protection grounds Defendant City of Evanston’s use of race as an eligibility requirement for a program that makes $25,000 payments to residents and direct descendants of residents of the city five-plus decades if not more than a century ago. Plaintiffs seek a judgment declaring Defendant’s use of race to be unconstitutional. Plaintiffs also seek an injunction enjoining Defendant from continuing to use race as a requirement for receiving payment under the program and request that the Court award them and all class members damages in the amount of $25,000 each.” Through a series of resolutions, the Evanston City Council created a program to provide $25,000 cash payments to residents who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 and their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The program violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because:

Remedying societal discrimination is not a compelling governmental interest.  Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., 488 U.S. 469, 505 (1989); see also Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 307 ((1978) (opinion of Powell, J.) (describing “societal discrimination” as “an amorphous concept of injury that may be ageless in its reach into the past.”)  Remedying discrimination from 55 to 105 years ago or remedying discrimination experienced at any time by an individual’s parents, grandparents, or great grandparents has not been recognized as a compelling governmental interest…

Defendant also has not and cannot demonstrate that its use of a race as an eligibility requirement is narrowly tailored.  Among other shortcomings, Defendant’s use of race as a proxy for experiencing discrimination between 1919 and 1969 does not limit eligibility to persons who actually experienced discrimination during that relevant time period and therefore is overinclusive.   Defendant also failed to consider race-neutral alternatives, such as requiring prospective recipients show that they or their parents, grandparents, or great grandparents actually experienced housing discrimination during the relevant time period because of an Evanston ordinance, policy, or procedure, as Defendant requires for the third group of prospective recipients.  Nor did Defendant take into account race-neutral anti-discrimination remedies before adopting its race-based eligibility requirement.

The first group of persons eligible for the $25,000 payments are current Evanston residents who identify as Black or African American and were at least 18 years of age between 1919 and 1969. Evanston refers to this group as “ancestors.”

The second group are individuals who identify as Black or African American who are at least 18 years of age and have at least one parent, grandparent, or great grandparent who identifies (or identified) as Black or African American, lived in Evanston for any period between 1919 and 1969, and was at least 18 at the time. Evanston refers to this group as “direct descendants.” A “direct descendant” is not required to be a current resident of Evanston to receive the payment.

Judicial Watch states in the lawsuit: “At no point in the application process are persons in the first and second groups required to present evidence that they or their ancestors experienced housing discrimination or otherwise suffered harm because of an unlawful Evanston ordinance, policy, or procedure or some other unlawful act or series of acts by Evanston between 1919 and 1969. In effect, Evanston is using race as a proxy for having experienced discrimination during this time period.”

The city committed $20 million to the program.

Judicial Watch states in the lawsuit that the six plaintiffs satisfy all eligibility requirements for participating in the program as “direct descendants” other that the race requirement (the actual number of individuals who are potential class members is in the tens of thousands).

“The Evanston, Illinois’ ‘reparations’ program is nothing more than a ploy to redistribute tax dollars to individuals based on race,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “This scheme unconstitutionally discriminates against anyone who does not identify as Black or African American. This class action, civil rights lawsuit will be a historic defense of our colorblind Constitution.”

Judicial Watch is being assisted in the lawsuit by Christine Svenson of Chalmers, Adams, Backer & Kaufman, LLC.

Judicial Watch lawsuits challenging unconstitutional discrimination are extensive.

On January 29, 2024, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of San Francisco taxpayers over a city program that discriminates in favor of biological black and Latino men who identify as women in the distribution of tax money. The lawsuit was filed after Judicial Watch earlier forced the release of records from the City of San Francisco showing the city prioritized tax money for black and Latino transgenders (biological men) in the Guaranteed Income for Trans People program.

In December 2023, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling and allowed Judicial Watch’s historic lawsuit filed on behalf of a Minneapolis taxpayer over a teachers’ contract that provides discriminatory job protections to certain racial minorities to proceed.

The City of Asheville, NC, in January 2022 settled a Judicial Watch federal civil rights lawsuit after agreeing to remove all racially discriminatory provisions in a city-funded scholarship program. Additionally, the city also agreed to remove racially discriminatory eligibility provisions in a related program that provides grants to educators.

In May 2022, Judicial Watch won a court battle against California’s gender quota law for corporate boards. The verdict came after a 28-day trial. The verdict followed a similar ruling in Judicial Watch’s favor in April finding California’s diversity mandate for corporate boards unconstitutional.

 

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