Amy Coney Barrett

Then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett sits for a meeting with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. on September 30, 2020. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Barrett Boots 'Nothingburger' Right-Wing Challenge to Biden Student Loan Cancellation

"Under any reading of precedent," said one legal reporter, "the Republican activists who brought this lawsuit have absolutely no right to challenge a single dollar of debt forgiveness."

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday rejected a challenge to the Biden administration's student debt cancellation plan, a move anticipated by jurists and journalists alike.

Barrett declined to consider an appeal by Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL)--a conservative law firm that previously drew attention for investigating claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and coming up empty--on behalf of Brown County Taxpayers Association, a right-wing advocacy group.

Numerous right-wing groups have claimed that President Joe Biden lacks the legal authority to implement his plan, under which between $10,000 and $20,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower can be canceled. The official online portal to apply for forgiveness went live on Monday.

Predicting Wednesday that WILL's challenge "will fail," Slate senior writer Mark Joseph Stern asserted that "the reason why is simple."

"For decades, the conservative justices have tightened the rules around who's entitled to sue in federal court," he explained. "And under any reading of precedent, the Republican activists who brought this lawsuit have absolutely no right to challenge a single dollar of debt forgiveness."

"The group opposes voting rights, unions, Covid restrictions, Medicaid expansion--it exploits the courts to combat pretty much every democratically enacted progressive policy," Stern noted. "So it was probably inevitable that it would mount a challenge to student debt relief."

Stern continued:

But WILL faces the same problem that every other Republican lawyer attacking the program has encountered: They are not directly harmed by debt cancellation, so they don't have standing to sue. The Supreme Court has consistently held that, under the Constitution, a plaintiff lacks standing unless they can identify a "concrete and particularized" injury, and show how a ruling in their favor would redress that injury. If a plaintiff flunks this test, there's no actual "controversy," so the federal judiciary has no authority to hear the case.

Or, as University of Texas School of Law professor Steve Vladeck succinctly said, "This one was always a nothingburger."

Other challenges to the Biden administration's plan could still reach the Supreme Court. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Edward Autrey dismissed a lawsuit by six Republican-led states seeking to block the plan.

"Today, a federal judge confirmed what lawyers in and out of government have long known: Joe Biden can cancel student debt broadly and immediately," Mike Pierce, executive director of the advocacy group Student Borrower Protection Center, said in a statement.

"As right-wing politicians and corrupt corporations fight against this historic effort to deliver life-changing debt relief to tens of millions of families," he added, "borrowers have their clearest sign yet that the law is on their side."

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