The conservative group behind the failed lawsuit to keep baseball’s All-Star Game in Georgia last year has sued the Department of Education over President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan.
The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Job Creators Network Foundation (JCNF) Legal Action Fund (LAF), accuses the Education Department and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona of violating the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment procedures. The plaintiffs, Myra Brown and Alexander Taylor, say that the program, which Biden announced in August, is “arbitrary” in its determination of who is eligible for debt forgiveness, what type of debt qualifies, and how much debt will be forgiven.
“The result of this arbitrariness is predictable: some will benefit handsomely, some will be shortchanged, and others will be left out entirely,” the complaint says.
According to a White House fact sheet, the debt forgiveness program will provide “targeted relief” to those carrying student debt: up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients will loans held by the Education Department, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Only those with individual incomes of less than $125,000, or $250,000 for married couples, will qualify.
Pell Grants, according to the government, are available to students “who display exceptional financial need.”
Brown, according to the complaint, does not qualify for debt forgiveness because the plan “does not cover commercially held loans that are not in default,” and Taylor doesn’t qualify for the full amount of debt forgiveness available because he didn’t receive a Pell Grant when he was in college.
The complaint says that the plaintiffs feel they were unfairly left out of the program.
“If the Department is going to pursue debt forgiveness, Plaintiffs believe that their student loan debt should be forgiven too,” the complaint says. “Ms. Brown believes it is irrational, arbitrary, and unfair to exclude her from the Program because her federal student loans are commercially held and not in default. Mr. Taylor believes that it is irrational, arbitrary, and unfair to calculate the amount of debt forgiveness he receives based on the financial circumstances of his parents many years ago. Plaintiffs want an opportunity to present their views to the Department and to provide additional comments on any proposal from the Department to forgive student loan debts.”
The lawsuit also accuses the Department of Education of playing politics ahead of the midterm elections.
“Instead of providing notice and seeking comment from the public, the Department hammered out the critical details of the Program in secret and with an eye toward securing debt forgiveness in time for the November election,” the complaint says.
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the Biden program violates the APA, an injunction preventing the Department of Education from “enforcing, applying, or implementing the Program anywhere within the Department’s jurisdiction,” and and order to “vacate and set aside” the plan.
Elaine Parker, the president of the JCNF, calls the debt relief program a “bailout” and an “unprecedented executive power grab” that doesn’t address the underlying issues of student debt.
“The administration’s action does nothing to address the root cause of unaffordable tuition: greedy and bloated colleges that raise tuition far more than inflation year after year while sitting on $700 billion in endowments,” Parker said in a statement. “Colleges need to be held accountable for their outrageous tuition prices that fund high executive pay, an army of administrators who provide little-to-no value, and the construction of resort-style amenities. College endowments, not taxpayers, should be responsible for helping students drowning in debt.”
“Bailing out this debt only kicks this problem down the road,” Parker also said. “By blocking this inflationary taxpayer bailout, JCN’s lawsuit can lay the groundwork to actually solve the student debt crisis by holding its college perpetrators accountable.”
The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas. It joins a growing list of lawsuits filed by Republican-led states and a California libertarian group representing an Indiana lawyer over the program.
The JCNF made headlines last year when it sued Major League Baseball after the league’s decision to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta, Georgia to Denver, Colorado after Georgia passed a sweeping voting law that opponents called a “voter suppression bill.” The lawyer for the case, Howard Kleinhendler — a one-time so-called “Kraken” attorney who was part of the pro-Donald Trump legal team trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election — eventually withdrew the complaint.
In the case against the Education Department, the JCNF has again hired lawyers with a connection to the former president: the complaint is signed by attorneys for Consovoy McCarthy, the law firm that represented Trump in litigation relating to Democrats’ efforts to force him to release his tax returns.
The Department of Education did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment.
Read the complaint here.
[Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images.]
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