Student loans

Opponents go to court to block student debt relief program: Hoosier’s lawyer says executive power is too broad, but young lawyers say relief is needed

The law school professor seemed to shrug his shoulders when talking about optics.

Ilya Somin

“The legal profession already has a pretty bad reputation, some for good reasons, some for bad reasons,” said Ilya Somin, a professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law. “I highly doubt this case will have a significant impact on the reputation of the legal profession in any way.”

The case is the lawsuit brought by Indiana attorney Frank Garrison, who is trying to block the Biden administration’s student loan debt relief program. And while legal action may do little to improve or weaken lawyers’ reputations, it will likely have little impact on the program itself.

Garrison claims that despite being eligible for $20,000 debt forgiveness, he would be harmed because the state of Indiana would deem income the amount of relief and tax it $1,000. However, in a court filing, the Department of Education clarified that borrowers eligible for automatic debt relief, including Garrison, can opt out of the program.

Southern Indiana District Court Judge Richard Young allows the plaintiff to file an amended complaint even though he suggested Garrison consider key issues raised at a planning conference — namely, whether Garrison will have standing and whether the matter is ripe for arbitration because the program is still evolving.

If Garrison’s case is dismissed, two others are still active in federal court and more are expected to be filed. Moreover, the burden and controversy of student debt relief will not diminish quickly.

Young lawyers in particular expressed their need for help. A 2020 survey by the American Bar Association Young Lawyer Division found that more than 75% of respondents had at least $100,000 in student loans upon graduation, while more than half had debt of $100,000. loan greater than $150,000.

Charlyn Stanberry

Charlyn Stanberry, a 2013 graduate of Florida International University College of Law, is the author of an ABA resolution advocating the cancellation of at least $50,000 in debt for all student borrowers. The Young Lawyers Division passed the resolution in August.

Speaking as a young lawyer and not on behalf of the YLD, Stanberry said canceling student debt will allow more law graduates to participate in the economy. They wouldn’t have to delay reaching traditional milestones of adulthood like home ownership and marriage, she said.

Additionally, Stanberry wondered if new JD graduates would have enough time in the job market to pay off their debt.

“Are people really going to have a lot more time to pay off all that debt and still (achieve) the American dream of having the house, the car, the kids, saving for your kids’ college tuition?” Stanberry said. “Another factor they don’t think about is the generational aspects. Baby boomers are retiring, so now I may have to take care of my parent in addition to supporting my family.

Somin denounces not only Biden’s relief plan, but also the idea of ​​forgiving student loans. He acknowledged as a law professor that “subsidizing the purchase” of legal education is in his best interest, but he said he believed debt cancellation hurts the country as a whole.

“I’m opposed to student debt relief on such a scale because it includes all kinds of people who are doing much better (financially) than the national average and puts a strain on taxpayers, many of whom are poorer than them,” Somin said. said. “It also has a perverse effect on higher education costs and encourages people in my industry to raise our prices and be less efficient in our spending.”

Debt and overspending

According to data from Law School Transparency, Indiana law school graduates could have six-figure student loan debt by the time they graduate from JD. In calculating the debt of in-state residents who receive a 25% tuition discount and spend 10% less than the maximum cost of living amount, LST has made the following estimates of debt and payments on a 20-year plan:

  • Indiana University Maurer School of Law graduates owe $170,522 and pay $1,210 per month.
  • Indiana University Robert H. McKinney Law School graduates owe $147,233 and pay $1,039 a month.
  • Notre Dame Law School graduates owe $239,623 and pay $1,715 per month.

Overall, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the debt cancellation program will cost $400 billion.

Garrison, who relied on student loans and Pell grants to fund his college education, lives in Indiana and practices environmental law at the Pacific Legal Foundation. The foundation represents Garrison in its challenge to the Biden agenda, Garrison c. US Department of Education, et al., 1:22-cv-1895.

Additionally, Somin clarified that his wife also worked for the Pacific Legal Foundation and that he had had informal conversations with the foundation, urging them to consider litigation. Still, he emphasized his interest in and opposition to the debt relief initiative before Garrison filed his lawsuit.

The Biden administration claims it has the power under the Higher Education Relief for Students Act of 2003, or HEROES Act, to forgive student debt. Garrison and the six states that recently filed a separate lawsuit opposing the program – State of Nebraska, et al., v. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., et al.., 4:22-cv-01040 – argue that the president is overstepping his authority.

Somin agreed with the plaintiffs that the executive branch goes too far and violates the Constitution’s separation of powers. As the plaintiffs argue, only Congress holds the nation’s checkbook.

“The litigation is not finally over, ‘Is this a good idea?’ This is a dispute over ‘Does the president have the power to do this?’” Somin said, noting that he had the same objections when President Donald Trump tried to hijack from army money to pay for the southern border wall.” Even if you think it’s a good idea, you should be concerned about the precedent set when presidents use emergency power to circumvent congressional control over the power of the wallet.”

Yet to make these arguments in court, plaintiffs must overcome the standing hurdle. Somin, foreshadowing Judge Young’s concern, said the opt-out provision could remove the prejudice that gives Garrison status.

Stanberry said she expected lawsuits to be filed in an attempt to stop the debt relief. She said she was confident that the White House carefully checked the legal grounds for launching the program.

“It’s a good plan,” Stanberry said of the Biden program. “It’s something that’s going to have a significant impact on a lot of people. So I think that trumps people who think it may be overbroad. »•