Federal judge tosses Brown County Taxpayers Association lawsuit over student loan relief

Student Loan Forgiveness
Student Loan Forgiveness(MGN)
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 5:20 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A U.S. district judge in Green Bay threw out a lawsuit just filed Tuesday by the Brown County Taxpayers Association and their attorneys, the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.

The taxpayers association and the conservative law firm were suing to stop the Biden administration’s federal student loan relief plan. Their three-fold argument said the president lacked the authority to enact the relief program without congressional approval; the action exceeded the authority granted by the HEROES Act emergency stimulus package; and it had an explicit purpose of benefiting Black borrowers to “narrow the racial wealth gap.”

In his five-page ruling Thursday, Judge William Griesbach said the plaintiffs don’t have standing to pursue the lawsuit. He noted the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that paying taxes “is generally not enough to establish standing to challenge an action taken by the Federal Government.”

The plaintiffs pointed to a 1968 Supreme Court ruling that created a narrow exception to this and said that exception could be widened in this case. Judge Griesbach noted that exception applies to congressional appropriations and pointed to other cases where Supreme Court justices, particularly Antonin Scalia, said even that narrow exception should be overruled.

Griesbach said just as the plaintiffs are concerned about the executive branch voiding student debts, a future administration could reverse the action and require that money to be paid back. “Those seeking to take advantage of the program,” he concluded, “may wish to consider this possibility before placing undue reliance on the benefits promised.”

As we’ve reported, Biden’s loan relief program would cancel up to $10,000 in student loan debt for individuals with less than $125,000 in income or households making less than $250,000. The amount is up to $20,000 for Pell grant recipients, who typically demonstrated more financial need.

The federal Office of Financial Aid says about 1 in 5 Americans carry student loans. The average balance in 2020 was $30,000, according to the Education Data Initiative.