Resources to Learn More About For Profit Student Loan Forgiveness

Student loans are a big problem for folks in the Middle Tennessee area. After I gave an interview on the “for profit” student loan forgiveness story last week, my phone started ringing off the hook.

One of the statements I made (which didn’t make the interview) was that a borrower who wants to make a forgiveness request may not need to hire a lawyer to help them with this process.

I mean, I love taking client money as much as the next lawyer, but there are resources online that you should review before talking to a lawyer.

I think the official Federal Student Aid website was a great resource. The site is written in good, clear text and contains a a link at the bottom, under the “How to Repay Your Loans” tab. The specific link is “Forgiveness, Cancellation, and Discharge.” This section contains a comprehensive “Frequently Asked Questions” section, as well links to the application to utilize the forgiveness process.

Lawyers are great and can be a benefit in any process like this. But, before you hire one, I’d suggest that you read the website and get an understanding of the issues first. Then, you know, bring in the big guns.

Loophole Under Federal Laws May Allow Some “For Profit” College Student Loans to be Forgiven

 

Last week, I talked to NewsChannel5 about a loophole under federal law that may allow borrowers to have their student loans forgiven, where they attended a “for profit” college that has either closed or made clearly false claims to attract students.

NewsChannel5

The law doesn’t apply to traditional colleges or universities, but, instead, to “for profit” colleges, a list of which can be found here.

These colleges generally target non-traditional students (i.e. older students with full time jobs), generally offer only night or online courses, and are known for advertising aggressively.

A great background “primer” on these issues can be found in “The Rise and Fall of For Profit Schools,” which suggests that the “advertising aggressively” part is the root of the trouble. Saying that “these schools made promises they couldn’t keep,” the article says that the industry may misrepresentations to get the attention of prospective students. This generally involves advertising inflated post-graduation job placement rates, misleading claims about potential future earnings, and lies about their faculty and facility quality.

With the economic downturn, as unemployed workers were looking for work and new job skills, those prospective students were the perfect marks for such alleged claims. Because many were unemployed or low income, the student body relied on federal student financial aid to pay the tuition.

The NewsChannel5 report drew from this Wall Street Journal article, which presented the shocking numbers of students availing themselves of the loan forgiveness process. Five years ago, the government had received only a handful of such requests; in the past 6 months, the story says, “more than 7,500 borrowers owing over $164 million have made applications.

Yikes.

Domestication of Federal Court Judgments: Really Easy

Four years ago, I talked about the process of domesticating a foreign judgment, which is the process by which a party makes a judgment of one state enforceable in a different state. Under each state’s version of the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, I said, it’s a pretty easy process.

What I didn’t mention, however, is how much easier it is to enforce a judgment granted in Federal District Court in another District Court.

In the federal system, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1963, all a plaintiff must do is record a certified copy of the final judgment in the other district. “A judgment so registered shall have the same effect as a judgment of the district court of the district where registered and may be enforced in like manner.”

To cut through the legalese, once you record your out-of-district, final judgment, it becomes enforceable immediately in the new district. There’s no need to serve a copy on the judgment debtor; there’s no 30 day response or objection period.

The reasoning behind this is simple. When you cross state lines, you take your judgment into a new jurisdiction, with a different state constitution and different laws. Under the federal court system, you’re not truly crossing any boundaries. And that’s a pretty powerful tool to keep in mind when deciding where to file an action against an out of state defendant.

New Lawsuit Alleges the Nashville Golf Cart Taxi Service is Liable for Negligence, Damages after Accident

If you live in Nashville, you’ve seen the golf carts driving people around. Everywhere.

Some drivers complain that the golf carts have a tendency to take liberties with the rules of the road, zipping in and around traffic. (Disclosure: I’ve used the golf cart service, and my drivers were courteous, nice, and followed the rules of road).

A new lawsuit filed on Monday in Davidson Circuit Court against Joyride Nashville (and others) alleges that, in late 2014, a golf cart “taxi” made a quick turn-around turn in a US Bank parking lot on Broadway in Nashville, resulting in the golf cart flipping over on its side and landing on the plaintiff’s leg. The lawsuit alleges negligence and seeks a judgment for her injuries.

This is an interesting case, because of the ubiquitous nature of the golf carts and the public’s (and car drivers’) general polarized opinions regarding their presence in downtown Nashville and the surrounding areas. This lawsuit may be a rallying cry for their critics and result in more regulations on their activities.

They say bad facts make bad law, and, here, if the plaintiff’s claims are true, additional regulations may be in order.

Google Fiber Inc. Owns the House Next Door: Two Quiet Title Lawsuits Filed in Davidson County Chancery

Two lawsuits were filed in Davidson County Chancery Court yesterday by Google Fiber Inc., seeking to quiet title and declare Google’s ownership of two tracts of real property in Davidson County.

These both involve real property that was sold by Metro Nashville via tax sale. In fact, at those tax sales, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County were the purchasers, and Metro then sold the properties to Google Fiber Inc. in early September 2015.

A “quiet title” action is a lawsuit in which a purchaser or claimant to certain real property seeks a Court order to clarify or declare that the plaintiff has the superior claim to the property. It’s usually done because, at some point in the property’s recent history, there has been a dispute or cloud on the title. Here, Google Fiber is filing these to clarify that no issues or competing claims remain after the tax sale.

One property appears to be a former church, while another property was formerly owned by someone who is now in prison. In the end, these are fairly routine matters under Tennessee law.

The better question is: Why is Google Fiber buying these properties and what is its long range plan?

Google Fiber Inc. v. Glenn’s Tabernacle Baptist Church aka Glenn’s Tabernacle Church fka James Tabernacle Baptist Church; Barry B. Bishop, trustee; Does, filed on 9/22/2015; 15-1138-II Quiet title.

Google Fiber Inc. v. Jennifer E. Hannah aka Jennifer E. Buchanan; Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp.; U.S. Bank Association ND now known as U.S. Bank NA, filed on 9/22/2015; 15-1137-IV Quiet title.

Tennessee Supreme Court Considers Noisy Corn Maze in the Context of “Nuisance” Laws

In the fall, you’ll see corn mazes sprout up all over Tennessee. In fact, Memphis loves Marc Gasol so much that they made a corn maze mural of Big Spain. I’ve been to this corn maze, however, and I encourage you to not attend on the nights offering the “haunted” version. (It’s horribly terrifying.)

Ok, back to the legal talk. All this reminds me of a recent Tennessee Supreme Court opinion involving a corn maze, which is a great primer on the law surrounding “nuisance.” It’s at Shore v. Maple Lane Farms, dated August 19, 2013.

In the case, two neighboring landowners squared off in a dispute over the 225 acre farm’s noisy new side business. After years of raising cattle, corn, and other produce, Maple Lane Farms expanded to include an annual spring festival and, later, a fall festival and corn maze. The Plaintiff moved next door in 2003, and, over the next few years, the Farm’s side activities got louder. Beyond the quaint occasional pumpkin festivals, the Farm moved on to regular music festivals, ATV rides, fireworks, and even aerial tours of the corn maze via helicopter.

As you can imagine, music festivals and helicopter fly-overs can get loud, and the farm’s neighbor filed suit in Blount County Chancery Court for them to be quiet, citing local zoning laws.  The opinion has a long discussion of the procedural aspects, but I’ll talk about noisy neighbors here.

Citing the law that “directs landowners not to use their property in a way that injures the lawful rights of others,” the Court said a “nuisance is anything that annoys or disturbs the free use of one’s property or that renders the property’s ordinary use or physical occupation uncomfortable. It extends to everything that endangers life or health, gives offense to the senses, violates the laws of decency, or obstructs the reasonable and comfortable use of the property.” “As long as an interference with the use or enjoyment of property is substantial and unreasonable enough to be offensive or inconvenient, virtually any disturbance of the use or enjoyment of the property may amount to a nuisance.”

The Court noted that the test is for a “reasonable person,” not for the “hypersensitive.” In judging a noise complaint, the Court noted “[a]mong the relevant circumstances are the locality, the character of the neighborhood, the nature of the use causing the noise, the extent and frequency of the injury, the time of day when the noise occurs, and the effects on the enjoyment of life, health, and property of those affected by the noise.” Remedies include damages and injunctive relief.

So, as you’re walking around a corn maze this fall, yelling for help or waiting for the fireworks to start, think of the angry neighbors next door.

The really interesting part of this opinion is actually later, in the Court’s interpretation of the Farm’s defense under the Tennessee Right to Farm Act. I’ll save that talk for another day.

If a Debt Isn’t Scheduled in a Chapter 7, Is it Discharged? (Probably)

Growing up, my dad liked the saying, “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make noise?” (Actually, he used the alternate version, involving a bear, bear excrement, and the resulting odors).

But, let’s get back to creditor rights talk: “If a Debt isn’t Scheduled in a Chapter 7, Is it Discharged?

I get this question all the time, from a creditor who–for whatever reason–isn’t listed as a creditor in the Bankruptcy Schedules and who may not get notice of the Bankruptcy Case.

The general thought is, if you want to discharge the debt, you have to list and send notice that creditor. This comes from 11 U.S.C. § 523 (a)(3), which says that all debts are discharged under § 727, unless those debts that are:

“…neither listed nor scheduled under section 521(a)(1) of this title, with the name, if known to the debtor, of the creditor to whom such debt is owed, in time to permit–

(A) if such debt is not of a kind specified in paragraph (2), (4), or (6) of this subsection, timely filing of a proof of claim, unless such creditor had notice or actual knowledge of the case in time for such timely filing; or

(B) if such debt is of a kind specified in paragraph (2), (4), or (6) of this subsection, timely filing of a proof of claim and timely request for a determination of dischargeability of such debt under one of such paragraphs, unless such creditor had notice or actual knowledge of the case in time for such timely filing and request…”

Based on the text above, it’s pretty clear, right?

Well, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has very convincingly ruled otherwise, in In re Madaj, 149 F.3d 467 (6th Cir. 1998). In that case, the debtor intentionally hid the bankruptcy from the creditors (who, coincidentally, were his foster parents). They weren’t listed, weren’t warned, and, in fact, the debtors actively kept the case a secret from mom and dad.

But, nevertheless, the Bankruptcy Court noted that the case was a no-asset case, meaning no Proof of Claim deadline was ever set, such that the § 523 (a)(3) timelines and deadlines were never implicated. The Court said that, because no claim deadline was ever set in this no asset case, then it didn’t matter when the creditors learned of the Bankruptcy Case: the instant they learned about the Bankruptcy, the debt was discharged.

“Their learning of the bankruptcy after the entry of the discharge order did not transmogrify the debt into one that is excepted from discharge under some provision of the Code other than § 523(a)(3)(A).”

Once upon a time, when a creditor wasn’t listed, the debtor would file a Motion to reopen the closed bankruptcy case and then amend their Schedule F to include the debt. The Court expressly rejected that practice. Instead of imposing administrative hassle on the Clerks and counsel, the Court found that such debts–listed or unlisted–are discharged. In a no asset case, “the fact that the debts were not listed becomes irrelevant.”

So, in these situations, that sound you hear is the debt getting discharged.