A federal judge in Texas took the extraordinary step Wednesday of declaring he’s ready to decide the legality of President Joe Biden’s executive order canceling hundreds of billions of dollars of student loan debt, bypassing a current request for a preliminary injunction and the customary trial.
U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman had been holding a hearing on a request from the small business group Job Creators Network’s legal arm on behalf of two plaintiffs to issue a preliminary injunction blocking Biden from enacting the debt relief until the legality of his executive order was decided.
But Pittman, appointed by former President Donald Trump, declared Wednesday in a five-sentence, one-page order that the government and plaintiff lawyers had made all the necessary arguments and that a trial would not elicit further evidence so he is ready to move to a judgement on the merits of the case.
“Having held a hearing on Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction and reviewed the related briefing, the Court intends to consolidate as it appears that the Parties have presented their case and no evidence of significance would be forthcoming at trial,” the judge wrote.
Pittman said he was prepared to advance the preliminary objection request “to a determination on the merits” and gave the Justice Department and plaintiff lawyers until Friday to file any objections to his plan.
The judge cited as his authority for taking such action a federal civil procedural rule that states that “before or after beginning the hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction, the court may advance the trial on the merits and consolidate it with the hearing.”
Lawyers for the Job Creators Network and Justice Department did not immediately return a call Wednesday night seeking comment.
Legal experts said the decision by Pittman was out of the ordinary. Harvard University law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz told Just the News that judges can fast-track a decision if they believe both sides have made their arguments and presented their evidence. “It’s fairly rare,” Dershowitz said, noting that Pittmann was giving the two sides in the case a chance to object to his strategy.
Pittman’s effort to fast-track his final decision could have significant political and legal implications for Biden’s executive order, which is estimated to cost taxpayers between $400 billion and $1 trillion. It comes just days before the mid-term elections that could shift control of one or both chambers of Congress to Republicans, who have argued publicly that the president’s debt cancellation plan was unconstitutional. It will also put his ruling on the merits ahead of several other cases working their way through federal courts from Louisiana to Washington D.C.
The Job Creators Network Foundation (JCNF) Legal Action Fund (LAF) sued last month to challenge the Biden Education Department’s student loan forgiveness program as an overreach of executive powers that “violates the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice-and-comment procedures.”
“Our lawsuit intends to block the Biden administration’s student loan bailout, which is an unprecedented executive power grab. The administration’s action does nothing to address the root cause of unaffordable tuition: greedy and bloated colleges that raise tuition far more than inflation year after year while sitting on $700 billion in endowments,” Elaine Parker, president of Job Creators Network Foundation, said at the time.
“Colleges need to be held accountable for their outrageous tuition prices that fund high executive pay, an army of administrators who provide little-to-no value, and the construction of resort-style amenities. College endowments, not taxpayers, should be responsible for helping students drowning in debt,” she added.
Parker said the Biden administration is “shifting the burden to taxpayers, including those who didn’t go to college or paid their student loans back” and allowing colleges to “escape responsibility for their actions creating the student loan crisis.”