Listen to this article here
GREENWOOD Dist.–After an extensive legal endeavor spanning several years, the quest for reparations on behalf of the three remaining survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Viola Ford Fletcher, Lessie Benningfield Randal, and Hughes Van Ellis has come to an end with Judge Caroline Wall’s dismissal of the lawsuit with prejudice, barring the possibility of it being refiled.
Though the survivors’ legal team plan to make an appeal, this disappointing hurdle carries significant implications for Black Americans, as it resonates deeply within the community due to the Tulsa Race Massacre being one of the most brutal acts of racial domestic terrorism in U.S. history.
Many had hoped that a favorable ruling in Tulsa would establish a precedent for other communities affected by white supremacy, making this setback even more disheartening.
Judge Caroline Wall: A “Constitutional Conservative”
Judge Caroline Wall, the Tulsa County Judge responsible for the dismissal, was re-elected in November 2018. Prior to her re-election, Judge Wall served as an associate district judge for the Tulsa County District Court, assuming the position in 2003. During her tenure, she held the position of Chief of the Tulsa County Criminal Courts in 2005.
Wall pursued her education at Northwestern University, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1986. Subsequently, she earned a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 1990. Following the completion of her legal education, Wall practiced law as an associate at Winters, King & Associates, specializing in family law.
Identifying as a Constitutional Conservative, Judge Wall has openly conveyed her commitment to “Exercising justice through Judeo-Christian values,” as stated on her campaign page. However, her principles and ideology have faced close scrutiny in light of her ruling to dismiss the lawsuit regarding the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Many have raised concerns regarding her pledges to “ensure people’s rights to swift justice” and “protect the rights of victims and juries,” given that these promises do not seem to align with her decision to deny the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre their opportunity for a day in court.
While Judge Caroline Wall’s social media presence appears to be minimal, she does maintain a Twitter account under the handle @realJudgeWall. Notably, Wall follows only three individuals on Twitter, one of them being Donald Trump.
Judge has links to far-right figures
In her Twitter bio, Judge Wall asserts her dedication to “Strictly Upholding the Constitutional Rights of the People as Written,” a statement that starkly contrasts with the perspective of the survivors of the Tulsa Race Massacre hold in relation to her actions as a judge.
In a letter titled “Response to Unjust Dismissal of Tulsa Race Massacre Lawsuit,” the three living survivors expressed, “Without a doubt, Judge Wall failed to review this case within the scope of well-established black letter Oklahoma law.” The letter goes on to outline how their legal team was compelled to argue the case beyond the requirements of Oklahoma’s legal standards, yet the case was still dismissed.
“Not how justice is supposed to work.”
Judge Caroline Wall is also facing scrutiny for the manner in which the dismissal was communicated, or rather, the lack thereof. Attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons revealed that he learned of the dismissal through the news and did not receive formal documentation until after the press conference.
During a press conference at Vernon AME church on Monday, he shared, “I had to make that phone call to my clients, on a Friday night, because I didn’t want them to hear about it through the news the way I did.”
At the press conference, lawyer Michael E. Swartz, a member of the Justice for Greenwood legal team, conveyed his astonishment at not receiving direct notification of the dismissal, something he had never encountered in his career.
He expressed deep disappointment on behalf of the survivors, who, despite all being over 100 years old, faithfully attended every court hearing and respectfully listened to hours of court proceedings, only to be left in the dark about the dismissal of their case.
In expressing his disapproval, Swartz remarked, “The judge did not have the courtesy to issue an order explaining her reasons for inexplicably dismissing this case. That’s not how justice is supposed to work.”