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Mark Brnovich wants to stop student loan forgiveness. Activists, lawyers aren't worried

Arizona's attorney general said he's looking into a potential lawsuit against the Biden administration over student loan forgiveness, but activists and lawyers don't buy it

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Attorney General Mark Brnovich is looking into possible lawsuits against the Biden administration with the goal of stopping student loan forgiveness.


Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in early September he's considering pursuing a lawsuit against the Biden administration to stop student loan forgiveness, but activists and other lawyers aren't confident the threats will come to fruition.

In an interview with CNBC on Sept. 6, Brnovich said he believes people are "celebrating prematurely" and that he and other leaders in Republican states are looking into suing to prevent student loan forgiveness payments because people believe it is "fundamentally unfair."

Cesar Aguilar, executive director of Arizona Students' Association, said members of the organization were confused by the attorney general's stance because he has previously been in favor of lowering tuition at Arizona's universities and fought for loan forgiveness for students who were taken advantage of by "predatory" private loan companies

"That was kind of surprising to us because he's sued the (Arizona Board of Regents) before trying to lower tuition for in-state students to follow our Arizona Constitution that higher education should be as nearly free as possible," Aguilar said.

Gov. Doug Ducey also spoke out against student debt forgiveness, signing a letter along with other Republican governors calling on Biden to withdraw his plan.

Kris Mayes, an ASU professor of practice and Democratic nominee for attorney general said she doesn't believe Brnovich and other attorneys general considering the lawsuit have legal standing.

"In order to file a lawsuit like this, a plaintiff has to prove that they have been harmed by an action and Arizona certainly has not been harmed by the debt forgiveness action," Mayes said in an interview with The State Press. "In fact, we will be helped as a state, so I think it's both wrong from a legal and a policy standpoint."

Charles Herf, education and constitutional law faculty associate at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law agreed with Mayes, but offered a potential explanation for the route Brnovich might be considering.

Herf said the Department of Education is using a 2003 law known as the HEROES Act to cancel student debt. The HEROES Act allows the secretary of education to cancel student loan debt that creates hardship during a national emergency and was originally intended to be used in the event of terrorist attacks like 9/11, according to Herf.

"Whether or not this particular debt forgiveness is legal requires an interpretation of what is a national emergency and whether or not something, other than a terrorist attack, can occur," Herf said.

However, Herf said he cannot be sure this is the legal course of action Brnovich will take or if it will hold up in court.

Mayes said she believes Brnovich will not be successful and plans to withdraw the state from the lawsuit if she is elected to replace him in November. Brnovich, who has held the office since 2015, is term-limited and has mounted an unsuccessful campaign to become the Republican Party's nominee to challenge Sen. Mark Kelly for his seat. 

"I think what the Biden administration has done is reasonable, appropriate and it's actually going to help the state of Arizona," Mayes said. "When people have less debt coming out of college, they're more likely to take jobs as teachers or police officers or at nonprofits, and that at the end of the day helps the state of Arizona."

Aguilar agreed, saying the Arizona Students' Association is not concerned about the lawsuit having any real impact on student debt forgiveness because of the unrealistic nature of the idea.

"Why are we going to use taxpayer money to go against something that is actually going to benefit a lot of taxpayers?" Aguilar said. "It makes absolutely no sense to go about doing that."

Edited by Wyatt Myskow, Piper Hansen and Grace Copperthite. 


Reach the reporter at rpriest2@asu.edu and follow @reaganspriest on Twitter.

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Reagan PriestPolitics Editor

Reagan Priest is the politics editor, leading coverage of ASU’s relationship to Arizona’s political entities. She previously worked as a social justice reporter for Cronkite News and currently works as a digital production intern at The Arizona Republic.


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