Lawyers soon to decide next step in riot suit
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Friday, September 10, 2004
1/20/13 at 8:08 AM
The lead attorney in a lawsuit
seeking damages for Tulsa's
1921 Race Riot and a 101-year-old plaintiff in the suit spoke to
the Congressional Black Caucus'
Legislative Conference on Thursday, one day after a federal appeals court ruled against them.
Charles Ogletree, the Harvard
law professor who is leading the
team representing more than
300 plaintiffs, said his appearance with Tulsan Otis Clark was
scheduled long before Wednesday's decision by three judges of
the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of
As it turned out, it hardly
could have been more timely.
"I was encouraged by the Congressional Black Caucus to
provide them more information about Tulsa," Ogletree said.
"Otis Clark is here, and he was warmly received."
Ogletree said a decision will be made by the end of the
month on whether to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme
"I'll be consulting with constitutional experts and our clients about the
viability of appealing to the Supreme
Court," Ogletree said. "All the lawyers are committed. They believe the
people of Tulsa need to be heard."
Ogletree and Clark appeared during a conference session led by Rep.
John Conyers, D-Mich., titled "Reparations: Honoring the Debt."
Conyers is among the leading advocates of slavery reparations.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the city and state for the
destruction of much of the black
neighborhood on the city's near-north side.
Both the district and appeals courts expressed sympathy for
the plaintiffs but said the lawsuit was too late to be considered. The usual statute of limitations on such lawsuits is two
"What's extraordinary is that both courts acknowledged
something terrible happened," Ogletree said. "Both acknowledged blacks experienced difficulties getting justice in the legal system. How they drew a line in the sand in the 1950s or
1960s is hard to understand."
In their decisions, the federal courts have agreed that black
people probably would have had difficulty winning their lawsuits at the time of the riot but said the plaintiffs' own testimony indicated that a fair hearing could have been had by
Assistant City Attorney Larry Simmons said the appeals
court's decision was not surprising.
"We kind of thought that's what they would do," he said.
"We're not particularly excited about it. The other side
pushed some interesting arguments, but the court did a good
job of seeing through them."
Randy Krehbiel 581-8365