If borrowers can opt out, Mr. Garrison’s claim “will be a harder case for us,” said Steve Simpson, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal, which is representing Mr. Garrison. “It would be harder to argue that he’s harmed any more.”
Mr. Biden’s relief plan will cancel $10,000 in debt for those earning less than $125,000 per year and $20,000 for those who had received Pell grants for low-income families. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday that it estimated the plan’s price tag at $400 billion. White House officials said they thought the actual cost could be lower because fewer borrowers than expected might apply for the relief.
The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr. Garrison’s lawsuit. The department has not yet said when, or how, it intended to implement any automatic debt relief.
Luke Herrine, an assistant law professor at the University of Alabama who specializes in student debt, said he thought Mr. Garrison’s case would fail if borrowers like him were given the choice to opt out.
“After doing a nationwide search, the conservative legal movement could only find a suitable plaintiff on its own staff,” Mr. Herrine said on Twitter. “Others are either happy to have this relief or ineligible for standing.”
Lawyers at Pacific Legal criticized Mr. Biden’s plan as an abuse of his executive power.
“It’s flagrantly illegal for the executive branch to create a $500 billion program by press release, and without statutory authority or even the basic notice and comment procedure for new regulations,” said Caleb Kruckenberg, a lawyer at the group who is representing Mr. Garrison.