The Berkeley Center for Consumer Law and Economic Justice opened its doors last week – on Monday, April 16, 2018 – and what a week it was.
On Monday, we filed an amicus brief in Manriquez et al. v. DeVos, a class action brought by former students of Corinthian Colleges against Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education. The lawsuit seeks redress for the Department’s arbitrary – and cruel – decision to stop granting full debt relief to students who attended the disgraced and defunct for-profit school. We filed our brief on behalf of the Debt Collective – a nonprofit member organization of former students who help others with claims – and in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction. The Department has argued that the injunction should be denied because students do not face irreparable harm. Our brief contains powerful personal stories from former Corinthian students struggling to get by – and experiencing devastating harm to their ability to function in the world as economic actors because their (fraudulently induced) student debt has ruined their credit, caused them to miss payments on their car, and as a result ultimately made them lose their jobs. These low-income folks – targeted by Corinthian for their economic vulnerability – cannot afford to wait for the Department to act on their claims for relief, especially since the Department is unlikely (on its own) to discharge their loans in full. Every day that passes brings them additional harm.
On Wednesday, we were up in Sacramento to testify on three bills involving threats to homeowners and protections for immigrant consumers. All three bills made it out of committee. (So did our first email to supporters, sent from the hearing room by Suzanne Martindale, new interim chair of the Center’s advisory board, while waiting for those bills to be heard.)
On Thursday, we set about planning new courses for the law school in the coming year, started rewriting and negotiating a new bill that would bring much-needed reform to the collection of court-imposed debt in California, and then … headed out to the annual Consumer Advocacy and Protection Society (CAPS) and Berkeley Consumer Alumni Group reception at the Gibbs Law Group, where students and friends past and present got to meet, greet, and hear a little bit about the first 4 days of the Center.
On Friday, we met with advocates to discuss possibilities for intervening on behalf of low-income consumers who have been targeted by purveyors of scams involving (1) the provision of gas for home use or (2) solar power systems.
Not a bad first week, really.