By Gordon Wayne Watts
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This is a follow-up to this story that Steve wrote about Mark Tetzlaff and his student loan Supreme Court efforts.
We recall Mark Tetzlaff, a law student with a staggering $260,000 in college loan debt, is a 56-year old, Waukesha, Wisconsin resident, who lives with his eighty-five-year-old mother, both of whom subsist solely the income from her Social Security payments: He’s divorced, unemployed, and has struggled with depression & alcohol abuse – and even has several minor misdemeanor convictions, which, when combined with failure to pass the bar exam, spell financial doom in his recent job searches.
Normally, a person with credit card debt in this situation has no trouble obtaining bankruptcy discharge. (Also, many “über-rich”folk, such as Donald Trump, have obtained bankruptcy discharge for huge sums of money, far in excess of Mr. Tetzlaff’s request.) However, as some students are finding out (all too late), a legal standard called “the Brunner test,” demands a student show ‘undue hardship,’ a standard which makes bankruptcy discharge next to impossible.
Tetzlaff, whose education in law surely helped him file for bankruptcy, nonetheless lost in the lower courts, but when he got to the U.S. Supreme Court, he was somehow able to retain Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, one of the “Big Law” attorneys who successfully argued part of Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark June 2015 “Gay Marriage” case that legalized so-called “same-sex marriage” in all 50 states. Hallward-Driemeier, as it turns out, is also a bankruptcy expert, and he made valiant efforts to argue that the various appellate circuits were “split” (in disagreement) in their exact definition of what constituted ‘undue hardship.’ While the Supreme Court isn’t required to take such cases, instances in which there is a ‘circuit split’ are a favorite type of case, one in which the Supremes are needed to ‘resolve’ a Circuit Split, and ‘return order’ to the legal world. Hallward-Driemeier & his team also seem to suggest that Title 11, Section 523(a)(8) of U.S. Code (the oppressive law in question) is unconstitutional because it creates “non-uniform” bankruptcy law, running afoul of Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 4 of the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court granted Certiorari (review) of Tetzlaff’s petition, and demanded that the other side respond.
You can follow the case docket if you click here.
For reasons unclear to this writer, the court ruled against Mr. Tetzlaff, allowing the circuit split to remain. Even more unusual, Hallward-Driemeier’s law firm didn’t ask the court for a rehearing of the denial of Certiorari review. This is where things get really weird: I (a non-lawyer) decided to “crash the party” and inform the court that it was wrong.
Since I nearly won in court as Terri Schiavo’s next friend –all by myself –one may safely assume that I “know a little something” about law, and thus may “have a chance” on the ‘Big Playing Field.’ (Ironically, Hallward-Driemeier was also opposing my counsel in one of the gay marriage cases where we both participated, and moreover, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in Atlanta, GA, allowed me to participate in another gay marriage case: I was the only ‘non-lawyer’ they allowed to participate. But we’re “on the same side” in this case.) And, as I generally hold ‘Conservative’ views in all areas, one may also safely assume that I’m not a ‘free handout’ liberal. So, why am I seeking relief here? Well, since I have a college loan, I’m legally permitted to ‘Intervene,’ since my interests weren’t being represented by the existing parties. Hallward-Driemeier tried real hard (and his brief was a fun read!), but he left out many things. To see why I felt that I “had a chance” at butting in, and what my arguments were, please visit one of my mirrors above. Just like slavery, or any other form of oppression, I don’t expect an overnight or instant solution to “debt slavery,” here, but this guest OpEd I’m writing is meant to be an ongoing series, and I hope to bring you further updates. Today, Tuesday, 22 March 2016, I submitted a response to the court’s claim that I didn’t have a legal right to intervene, citing Federal Case law from the US Supreme Court, no less, to prove that I was right. See my docket, linked above, for said letter and updates.
Gordon Wayne Watts, editor-in-chief, The Register
www.GordonWayneWatts.com / www.GordonWatts.com
BS, The Florida State University, Biological & Chemical Sciences;
Class of 2000, double major with honours
AS, United Electronics Institute, Class of 1988, Valedictorian
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