National Black United Front
12817 Ashland Avenue — Floor 1
Calumet Park, IL 60827
(708) 389-9929 (Office) (708) 389-9819 (Fax)
May 16, 2003
Re: Report on the 2nd Hearing of the Historic Reparations Class Action Lawsuit – May 7, 2003
Hotep Sisters and Brothers.
On Wednesday, May 7th 2003, approximately 200 members of the African community in America assembled at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago for the 2nd hearing of the historic Reparations class action lawsuit. The hearing was held in the court of Judge Charles Norgle of the 7th Circuit of the Illinois Northern District Court, a judge viewed by many to be amongst the most conservative judges in the US Federal Court system. This lawsuit is a consolidation of several lawsuits filed in federal courts across the nations against a number of corporations who have benefited from the institution of chattel slavery. These corporations include:
Aetna Casualty CSX Corporation Loews Corp. NY Life Insurance
Brown Bros. Harriman Westpoint Stevens FleetBoston Lehman Bros
Lloyds of London RJ Reynolds Tobacco Union Pacific Norfolk Southern
Williamson - Ligett Group JP Morgan Chase
The purpose of the hearings is to work through some procedural issues, to update the court on the status of the consolidation, and to determine if there is enough reason to go to trial. Since the lawsuits were originally consolidated, additional plaintiffs from California have come forward and now must be consolidated with the other plaintiffs. Motions have been filed to the court by the plaintiffs to preserve the records of the defendants and to prevent the destruction of these records. Motions have also been filed by the attorneys representing the plaintiffs to gain access to these documents so that they may be used to support the case against the corporations. Another pending action in the consolidation is a formalized complaint against the corporations on behalf of all of the plaintiffs. As was expected, the primary strategy of the attorneys representing the defendants is to get the case thrown out of court prior to going to trial.
As was the case in the first hearing on February 26th, 2003, the African community came out in large numbers to over pack the original courtroom, and to fill the largest courtroom in the building to capacity. Prior to the court proceedings, a rally was held outside the federal building attended by members of NBUF, N’COBRA, the New Black Panther Party, Trinity United Church of Christ, representatives of the Cook County Bar Association, and a host of activists and supporters from across the country. The rally was also addressed by two of the lead attorneys on the lawsuit, Atty. Lionel Jean-Baptiste and Atty. Roger Wareham. The impact of the community coming out in support of the lawsuit was very evident in the change in the behavior of Judge Norgle towards the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. The blatant disrespect displayed by the judge towards the plaintiff’ attorneys in the first hearing on February 26th was dramatically reduced in the second hearing.
Upon conclusion of the hearing, a press briefing, featuring the plaintiffs and their attorneys, was conducted on the ground level of the federal building. The attorneys briefed the members of the assembled press on the status of the lawsuit to this point and gave details regarding the various motions that were filed or were in the process of being filed. Several of the plaintiffs also addressed the press to give details of their individual lawsuits and the specific ancestors in whose name the lawsuits were filed.
The 3rd hearing for the lawsuit will be held on July 21, 2003, once again in the courtroom of Charles Norgle at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago, IL at 10:00 AM. Once again, a rally will be held in the streets outside of the federal building at 8:30 AM followed by our mass entry into the courtroom beginning at 9:15 AM. NBUF is continuing our involvement in the Reparations Movement through supporting and mobilizing around the lawsuit, in addition to our Elected Officials Survey Strategy and Phase IV of the Genocide/Reparations Petition Campaign. We urge all that are able come to court and pack the streets in support of the lawsuit on July 21st.