State Supreme Court Rules Against Race Massacre Survivors In Public Nuisance Lawsuit

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre on Wednesday and in favor of the City of Tulsa.

Wednesday, June 12th 2024, 6:46 pm

By: David Prock, News On 6


The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre on Wednesday and in favor of the City of Tulsa.

The survivors sued the city on the grounds of a public nuisance claim alleging that the city and chamber were exploiting the 1921 Race Massacre massacre by promoting tourism for the city's gain, at the plaintiffs' expense. They sought reparations from the city.

A Tulsa County judge dismissed the suit in July of 2023, but the legal team for Lessie Benningfield Randle, Viola Fletcher, and Hughes Van Ellis, Sr. announced that they would be appealing the case before the Oklahoma Supreme Court a month later.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that the plaintiffs failed to justify a public nuisance claim and quote "a legally cognizable abatement claim." They also said the grievances do not fall within the scope of public nuisance.

Related: City Of Tulsa Reacts To Supreme Court Ruling On Dismissal Of Race Massacre Lawsuit

Representatives with the City of Tulsa released the following statement after the ruling.

“The City of Tulsa respects the court’s decision and affirms the significance of the work the City continues to do in the North Tulsa and Greenwood communities. Through economic development and policy projects, the 1921 Graves Investigation, and a renewed community vision for the Kirkpatrick Heights & Greenwood Master Plan, the City remains committed to working with residents and providing resources to support the North Tulsa and Greenwood communities.”


The Legal Team for the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 issued the following statement:

"Our clients, Viola “Mother” Fletcher and Lessie Benningfield “Mother” Randle, will file a petition for rehearing with the Oklahoma Supreme Court asking the Court to reconsider its decision.  
The destruction of forty-square blocks of property on the night of May 31, 1921 through murder and arson clearly meets the definition of a public nuisance under Oklahoma law.  Faithful application of the law compels the conclusion that Mother Randle and Mother Fletcher have stated a claim for relief.  They are entitled to a trial.  Yet the Court held that Mother Randle and Mother Fletcher have asked the Court to decide a “political” question that is beyond the purview of the Court.
Incredibly, during the extensive oral argument the Supreme Court held on the appeal, not a single member of the nine-member Court asked a question about this political question theory.  It is not a political question simply because the suit seeks to remedy wrongful acts perpetrated by a white mob against Black people – the court system is the very place where such harms are meant to be remedied.
In 103 years since the Massacre, no court has held a trial addressing the Massacre and no individual or entity has been held accountable for it.  As justice is delayed once again in the Oklahoma court system, we call upon the United States Department of Justice to open an investigation into the Massacre under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007.  
The Massacre happened 103 years ago, but it remains a vivid memory of Mother Randle and Mother Fletcher who as young girls saw their community destroyed in the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.  As Mother Fletcher celebrated her 110th birthday last month and Mother Randle will celebrate the same birthday later this year, time is of the essence for this investigation to begin. 


Previous Story: Oklahoma Supreme Court Hears Opening Arguments In Tulsa Race Massacre Lawsuit

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