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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking Reparations for Tulsa Race Massacre

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Seeking Reparations for Tulsa Race Massacre

Plaintiffs’ attorneys vowed to appeal the decision, which one called ‘a travesty of justice.’

On July 7, an Oklahoma judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking compensation for the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. The complaint alleged Oklahoma officials, by participating in the Massacre and profiting from it, created a public nuisance and received unjust enrichment.

Because the judge dismissed the case with prejudice, the plaintiffs cannot file a new complaint, but they can appeal the dismissal to a higher court.

“[C]ounsel will be appealing as the fight for justice is everlasting,” plaintiffs’ attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons told Legal Insurrection.

The plaintiffs, now centenarians, are three survivors of the Massacre. The defendants are the City of Tulsa, the Tulsa Regional Chamber, the Board of County Commissioners, the Sheriff of Tulsa County, and the Oklahoma Military Department.

The July 7 order dismissing the lawsuit incorporates an order dated August 3, 2022, which dismissed an earlier lawsuit, as the basis for dismissing the lawsuit. The three plaintiffs were previously joined by eight other plaintiffs whose claims the court dismissed with prejudice in the August 3 order.

The court allowed the three remaining plaintiffs to file an amended complaint to address issues with their complaint.

The three plaintiffs alleged the defendants in 1921 participated in a mob that destroyed the property of black residents and killed numerous black residents. According to the complaint, this public nuisance has created ongoing racial disparities and resulted in shorter lifespans for Tulsa’s black residents.

The plaintiffs further alleged some of the defendants have received unjust enrichment from the Massacre “by profiting off the deaths, destruction, and despair that they created” through “cultural tourism” based on Massacre.

Oklahoma law defines nuisance as “unlawfully doing an act, or omitting to perform a duty, which act or omission . . . annoys, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, or safety of others . . .  or . . . [i]n any way renders other persons insecure in life, or in the use of property.”

Unjust enrichment occurs when one party confers a benefit on another without the other party giving proper restitution to the first party.

The August 3 order dismissed claims related to a continuing public nuisance stemming from the Massacre. The court found such “claims of public nuisance must be dismissed with prejudice because these claims request relief that violates the separation of power provided by the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma” and “present political questions.”

The court based this on a 2021 Oklahoma Supreme Court decision that restricted the scope of public nuisance claims to “discrete, localized problems, not policy problems.”

Expanding the scope of public nuisance suits to “policy problems,” the Oklahoma Supreme Court reasoned, would result in courts “stepping into the shoes of the Legislature by creating and funding government programs designed to address social and health issues.”

The Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected this “unprecedented expansion of public nuisance law.”

The July 7 order does not elaborate on the dismissal of the unjust enrichment claims and provides no additional justification for the dismissal, except for the judge having considered the parties’ arguments and briefs.

“Judge Wall’s ruling is truly stunning,” argued Michael Swartz, who represents the plaintiffs. “Judge Wall reversed herself and dismissed the case with no explanation. That is a travesty of justice and undermines faith in the judicial system.”

“[W]e are absolutely appealing the [July 7] order,” Sara Solfanelli, another attorney for the plaintiffs, told Legal Insurrection.

The Massacre, as described by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), began after an alleged incident involving a black man and a white woman. According to the OHS, the Massacre is “[b]elieved to be the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.”

During the Massacre, “more than one thousand homes and businesses were destroyed, while credible estimates of deaths range from fifty to three hundred.” White residents engaged in acts of violence following a failed attempt to lynch the black man, who was ultimately exonerated.

The Tulsa Regional Chamber and the City of Tulsa declined to comment.

The July 7 order dismissing the amended complaint:

The August 3 order incorporated into the July 7 order:


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“During the Massacre, “more than one thousand homes and businesses were destroyed, while credible estimates of deaths range from fifty to three hundred.””

Credible estimates? How many people were killed, exactly?

    GWB in reply to alien. | July 11, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    Normally when I see something like that I scoff.
    But I think I understand that to mean (in this case) that people have looked into the event and found claims they can’t entirely verify and claims that satisfy their measure of “credible” – which is different across time and across historical sources.

    So, “There were at least five killed, beyond a shadow of a doubt. And somewhere up to 300 based on later evidence and conflicting claims. And if you want, you’re welcome to go read a bunch of historical and legal stuff and figure out for yourself what to believe.”

    SethPutnamAC in reply to alien. | July 12, 2023 at 3:39 pm

    The death toll is likely on the low end of that estimate.

    Oklahoma had a state commission in the late 1990s-early 2000s that produced an excellent report on the riot (link at the end). To summarize:

    a. 39 confirmed death certificates for victims of the riot.

    b. The commission used ground penetrating radar and found some anomalies in 3 cemeteries / parks that were reported as mass grave sites for the dead Blacks, but excavations / core sampling did not find any graves with more than one person.

      SethPutnamAC in reply to SethPutnamAC. | July 12, 2023 at 3:42 pm

      Forgot to add: one detail that’s frequently overlooked is that the riot did not “destroy” the Greenwood neighborhood. The Black residents, to their credit, rebuilt and the neighborhood reasonably prospered for another 40+ years, until much of it was taken by eminent domain for a freeway and university campus expansion.

the fight for justice is everlasting
You misspelled “pay-off.”

“Judge Wall’s ruling is truly stunning,”
Well, yeah, it is. Given how often today’s judges seem to rule from a position of their religious belief instead of from the written text of the law, this is kind of astounding.

undermines faith in the judicial system
Hoo boy. Have I got some bad news for you….

Now, should the victims of that incident have been compensated? Sure. And lots of people should have gone to jail because of it. And I won’t defend the bad people who did bad things.
But trying to pry some money out of the pockets of living taxpayers because of something done by people who are likely all dead? No, that’s not really just.

    Morning Sunshine in reply to GWB. | July 11, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    I wish I could give you 2 thumbs up. Your points are well made, and each deserve their own upvote.

chrisboltssr | July 11, 2023 at 5:58 pm

More black victim grist for the black victim grift.

healthguyfsu | July 11, 2023 at 6:00 pm

Reparations are not to be paid by the govt for such heinous acts. Seek out the parties that directly benefited….aka the Dem reporter loon that started it all.

    jhkrischel in reply to healthguyfsu. | July 11, 2023 at 6:54 pm

    They should sue the Democrat party for profiting from the destruction of black lives in both Tulsa and Forsyth County, Georgia.

    Every white murderer in those cases were democrats, and every black victim in those cases were republicans. Hold democrats accountable for their hate crimes.

NYC should be in the same pickle with the Civil War race riots. Minnesota, and especially Minneapolis should be responsible for The Summer of St. George of Floyd riots.

    Actually, I believe that Antifa should be sued for all of the damage it caused to cities.

    It’s one thing to demonstrate about an unjust act. It is another for an organization which has been training for years to devastate American cities to set fire to and destroy huge amounts of property.

    When we sue Antifa, let me know.

    BierceAmbrose in reply to alaskabob. | July 12, 2023 at 12:55 am

    Well, with that legal language, Congress should be glad they’re not in Oklahoma. They’d be charged every day they met, and twice on the ones they don’t.

JohnSmith100 | July 11, 2023 at 7:36 pm

The number of whites murdered by blacks dwarfs those of blacks murdered.

“appealing as the fight for justice is everlasting” Blacks should stop all their shakedowns, Heaven help them if whites decided to settle the score for disproportionate black on white murder & other crimes, though most whites are probably too civilized to do so.

I do think that blacks are damaging good will at an alarming rate.

I presume the unjust enrichment case is impossible. Although some states have adopted a ‘loosey-goosey’ application, the common law tort is very proof specific: There must be a contract, quasi-contract or understanding that something of value will be created. The Defendant must know the item of value is being performed or created. And the Defendant must know the item was for the benefit of another but it in fact enriched the Defendant and the Defendant did not object to the same, but instead reaped the reward.
How this would apply in the instant case is beyond understanding.
It seems to me that the Plaintiff’s are simply rifting off the tort’s title, unjust enrichment, and not the actual cause of action.

E Howard Hunt | July 11, 2023 at 11:37 pm

Let’s look for some 100-year-0ld Nazi concentration camp guards while we are at it.

    AF_Chief_Master_Sgt in reply to E Howard Hunt. | July 12, 2023 at 7:36 am

    Apparently, what are left are all living in Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay… along with Adolf and the rest of the Third Reich.

    They shouldn’t be hard to find. 😉

The ruling is stunning because it complies with the law and the state Constitution. A judge did their job properly. Truly stunning.

It is one hundred and two years later. This reminds me if the never ending reanimated of Medgar Evers corpse.

After like 60 years, it’s time to let it go. Are they going to rile up both sides for centuries, just because.

Thus reminds me of Northern Ireland Protestants marching through Catholic b neighborhoods to celebrate a 15th Century victory in battle.

Gotta keep that hate going, can’t let it lay there. You understand that’s how civil wars get formented, don’t you?