On November 4, the United States Supreme Court rejected a second request to block President Joe Biden's student debt relief program.
- The Pacific Legal Foundation, representing two Indiana residents, requested on Nov. 1, 2022, for the Supreme Court to block President Biden's relief program pending an appellate court's decision.
- Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, as the justice responsible for the Seventh Circuit's emergency application requests, denied the PLF's request last week.
- Biden's student loan forgiveness plan has been on hold since October 21 after the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit granted an emergency petition from six Republican-led states.
Pacific Legal Foundation Dismissed
The request came from the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group, representing Indiana residents Frank Garrison and Noel Johnson. On Sept 27, 2022, Garrison filed a complaint and requested a temporary restraining order to prevent the U.S. Department of Education from implementing automatic debt cancellation. After being dismissed by the district court, Garrison, joined by Johnson, filed an amended complaint on behalf of a class of similarly-situated borrowers on October 10. Eleven days later, this was also dismissed, prompting the duo to file a merit appeal with the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that same day. On October 24, they also moved for an injunction while their appeal is being considered, but this request was denied four days later.
On November 1, on behalf of Garrison and Johnson, the PLF asked the Supreme Court to suspend President Biden's student debt forgiveness plan while awaiting the appellate court's decision. The PLF argued that the class of borrowers Garrison and Johnson represent will face excess tax liability under state law if they are subject to automatic student debt cancellation. This class constitutes borrowers in at least six states that tax loan cancellation as income and who are pursuing debt forgiveness under statutory forgiveness programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness. As the justice responsible for emergency application requests from the Seventh Circuit, Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett received the PLF's request, which she denied on November 4.
Justice Barrett's Prior Denial
This is the second such request that Justice Barrett has denied. The Brown County Taxpayers Association, a Wisconsin taxpayers' group, filed a lawsuit in early October against President Biden and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, arguing the student debt forgiveness plan was unconstitutional and a breach of the 5th Amendment's equal protection doctrine. The taxpayers's group then filed an appeal after a federal judge dismissed its case. While awaiting the appellate court's decision, the BCTA requested that the Supreme Court to halt the student loan forgiveness rollout. Justice Barrett rejected the request the following day.
This marks the latest in a series legal victories for the Biden Administration's student debt forgiveness plan. However, given recent events, this was also a somewhat hollow victory. Thanks to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, Biden's student loan forgiveness has been on hold since October 21 while the appellate court considers the request for injunction pending appeal of the dismissal of a case brought by six Republican-led states. This is a potentially troubling sign for students, especially borrowers who were previously ineligible for any student debt forgiveness and had to rely on alternative means of managing their debt, such as student loan refinance companies.