Judge denounces Betsy DeVos for “potentially illegal” conduct

California federal judge issued scathing reprimand on US Secretary of Education on Monday Betsy DeVos, claiming that his department failed to process student loan cancellation requests and issued massive denials without proper review.

“Following the preliminary approval of a proposed class rule intended to re-launch the Department of Education (DoE) review of student loan borrower defense claims under higher education laws and the administrative procedure (APA), the secretary’s new superficial denial notices undermine the proposed settlement, contradict its original justification for the delay, raise substantial questions under the APA, and may impose irreparable harm on the class of student loan borrowers », US District Judge Guillaume Aslup, a person appointed by the president Bill clinton, wrote in the first sentence of his order denying approval of the class action settlement.

The case stems from changes the DoE has made to the borrowers’ repayment defense program since DeVos took over the department, including implementing rules that have made it more difficult for borrowers to file claims against schools. by dramatically increasing the amount of evidence required to demonstrate potential fraud. The ministry also essentially stopped processing new requests for almost 18 months, from June 2018 to December 2019.

Complainants Theresa Sweet, Chenelle Archibald, Daniel Deegan, Samuel Hood, Tresa Apodaca, Alicia Davis, and Jessica jacobson filed a class action lawsuit in June 2019 alleging that the delay in processing constituted an unlawful blocking; they sought to force Secretary DeVos to start adjudicating the claims again.

The court approved a preliminary proposal in May for DeVos to rule on the claims and make the repairs, but due to DeVos’ conduct, Aslup said that deal was no longer on the table.

“Then came the problem,” Aslup wrote. “Class Counsel found that the Secretary had issued alarming denial notices for several months, in violation (as Class Counsel said) both of the spirit of the proposed settlement and of the Act. on the administrative procedure. “

Citing letters and video testimony given at a fairness hearing earlier this month, Aslup said borrowers had good reason to believe DeVos failed to process their claims in good faith.

“It’s no wonder borrowers are confused. The secretary’s superficial refusal notice does not explain the evidence reviewed or the law applied. It does not provide any analysis. And, the way forward for the borrower sounds disturbingly Kafkaesque, ”he writes. “Without meaningful analysis of the evidence under the law, how could a borrower articulate such a basis for reconsideration? After all, it is impossible to challenge an unjustified decision.

Noting that the DoE went from granting 99.2% of requests to 89.9% of requests under DeVos, Judge Aslup said he could bar the department from continuing to issue “potentially illegal shallow refusals” until until the dispute is over.

“Simply put, where there is smoke, there is fire. After justifying an eighteen month delay largely on the backbreaking effort required to examine individual claims, distill common evidence and “achieve considered results,” the secretary charged immediately, issuing superficial denial notices altogether. lacking in meaningful explanations at a breakneck pace. », Specifies the order. “Set aside even the question of whether this form refusal is, in fact, a legally sufficient ‘final decision’ under the proposed agreement, the APA, departmental regulations and due process. The problem here is that “the evidence tells a story which does not match the explanation given by the secretary for h[er] decision.’ Judicial review of agencies is deferential – not naive. The courts will not suffer from pretext in examining the conduct of the agency. “

Read the full decision below:

Order denying the settlement View the cause through Law and Crime on Scribd

[image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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