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Wednesday, September 27, 2006 

Seventh Circuit and Reparations

Always on the ball, Howard Bashman at How Appealing has a heads up about an interesting case in my beloved Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorneys representing the descendents of slaves filed suit against 17 banks and insurance companies in order to get them to publicize their roles (or their predecessors' roles) in the slave trade...
The case, which names Wall Street behemoths JP Morgan Chase & Co., Aetna Inc., Bank of America, Lehman Brothers and others, says the companies' predecessors issued loans to slave owners and, in some cases, owned, insured and transported slaves - all at a financial profit that helped ensure their success today.
The case made its way up on appeal after being thrown out by the district court judge earlier this year. The judge determined that the reparations issue was best left to the other branches of the government. I heartily agree.

What are the plaintiffs looking for here? Money...
If the reparations advocates succeed, the companies will have to account for the income they earned from slavery, produce historical records and give up the profits earned from slavery. The damage awards would be used to create a court-supervised fund to help fix problems in the black community.
I guess there is nothing that money can't solve, huh?

This part of the AP article struck me as a little odd...
"We were left in poverty. My family's hardship and free labor was not in vain," said Antoinette Harrell, a genealogist from Kentwood, La. who clutched raw cotton as she spoke inside federal court Wednesday.
Emphasis added.

The Seventh Circuit is nice enough to make their oral arguments available online in MP3 format. You can click here to listen to Judges Posner, Easterbrook, and Manion in action. I'm in the middle of listening to the arguments, but I don't think that the panel is buying the plaintiffs' case. The damages are just too speculative. I expect another loss for the plaintiffs.

EDIT: Oh man. Please listen to this oral argument. It's just a mess. My favorite part is halfway through when people in the courtroom start clapping after the plaintiffs' lawyers are finished. Posner is like "what the hell?" Folks, we don't clap in courtrooms. This isn't a ball game or a Journey concert. Behave. The Seventh Circuit is big on rules and procedure. They aren't going to put up with that kind of crap.

The questioning itself is excellent. Posner does most of the questioning during the argument. Easterbrook chimes in a few times, but Posner seems to be in the driver's seat. His line of questioning supports my view that the plaintiffs are going to lose this one.

Theft through lawsuit. Eventually though, some liberal panel will let them proceed and aid and abet their theft.

I don't know if there is a panel that would let this through. It's certainly possible though. Ninth Circuit, I'm looking in your direction.

It was very clear that Judges Posner, Easterbrook, and probably the fairly silent Manion aren't biting.

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