April 15th, 2024 2 Minute Read Amicus Brief by Dan Morenoff, Ilya Shapiro

Amicus Brief: Carpenter vs. Vilsack

The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 spending bill of 2021 included a program that used race to determine which farmers and ranchers would be eligible for debt relief through aid programs managed by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program allowed only “socially disadvantaged” farmers to claim debt relief, so Leisl Carpenter of Wyoming challenged the constitutionality of this racially discriminatory program. Despite her challenge, USDA went forward with the program, making at least four payments to minority farmers in June of 2021.

After several injunctions in other cases halted the issuance of payments, Congress finally gave up and repealed the program in August 2022. But the payments that were made in June 2021 were never addressed by the new legislation. After the program’s repeal, the government sought to dismiss Leisl’s case as moot, saying that she no longer had an interest in halting a program that was repealed. Leisl’s attorneys argued that the case isn’t moot so long as the government hasn’t addressed the payments that were made before the repeal.

The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss, which ruling the Tenth Circuit affirmed. Leisl has now asked the Supreme Court to take the case. The Manhattan Institute has joined the American Civil Rights Project on a brief supporting that petition and explaining why the lower courts were wrong in determining that Leisl’s case was moot. We bring the Court’s attention to the perils of allowing the government to use periodic retreats to avoid accountability for discriminatory and unconstitutional programs. 

Dan Morenoff is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the executive director at the American Civil Rights Project.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow and director of Constitutional Studies at the Manhattan Institute. Follow him on Twitter here.

Photo: Peter Garrard Beck/The Image Bank via Getty Images


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