Back in October, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and her department were fined $100,000 for contempt of court regarding their non-compliance with a court order to stop collecting loans from students bilked by a chain of fraudulent for-profit colleges. Turns out that price tag could get a little steeper.
she does not believe that defrauded students should have their loans forgiven. If they are making money now, then too bad about the loan. As she told the House Education Committee when they tried to rake her over some coals on this matter:
I understand that some of you here just want to have blanket forgiveness for anyone who raises their hand and files a claim, but that simply is not right.
So maybe the department made a few clerical errors. Or maybe DeVos just decided she would drag her heels as hard as possible against the injunction against collection from May 2018, as witnessed by the loans forgiven by the previous administration which she signed off "with extreme displeasure" and by her attempts rewrite the rules for loan cancellation.
Judge Sallie Kim was pretty cranky when she offered the October ruling (“I’m not sending anyone to jail yet, but it’s good to know I have that ability.” So she was not any happier in December when it turned out that the department had been collecting-- against the injunction-- from not just 16,000 students, but from over 45,000. So, a more-than-double oopsy.
The plaintiffs in the original suit against DeVos and the department made a motion to reconsider the court's sanctions. They can do that because facts have been added that weren't available at the time of the original sanctions; in this case, the fact that the department under-reported their non-compliance with the injunction by about 30,000 indebted former students.
Judge Kim filed her response to that request on Tuesday, January 7. It is short and to the point: because the compliance reports filed by the defendants (aka DeVos and the department) have brought up these new facts that are "directly relevant to the amount of sanctions appropriate to compensate for the Defendant's flagrant and continuing violation of the preliminary injunction," plaintiffs can go ahead and file their motion for partial reconsideration (aka a new amount of fine).
That was due today. DeVos's folks get till next week to respond.
The amount is symbolic, and DeVos could pay it with the change in her sofa at home, but it's still extraordinary to see a United States Magistrate Judge have to publicly and repeatedly take a cabinet secretary to the woodshed. And today is Betsy DeVos's birthday, too. We'll see what sort of present she gets.