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Supreme Court allows student loan offset of Social Security benefits

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] handed down two decisions Wednesday, including one in Lockhart v. US [Duke Law backgrounder], where the court held that the federal government can offset Social Security benefits to collect outstanding student loan debt even if the debt has been owed for over 10 years. The Court considered the appeal of James Lockhart, a disabled man whose monthly check had been cut by 15 percent to cover college loans from the 1980s. The Debt Collection Act of 1982 normally bars the reduction of Social Security benefits to offset debts that are more than 10 years over due, but the Court ruled that the 1991 Higher Education Technical Amendments effectively eliminated the 10-year statute of limitations for student loan debt. Read the Court's opinion, per Justice O'Connor, along with a concurrence from Justice Scalia. AP has more.

Chief Justice John Roberts [JURIST news archive] authored the second opinion handed down Wednesday, his first since joining the Court. In Martin v. Franklin Capital Corp. [Duke Law backgrounder], the Court held that attorney's fees should not ordinarily be awarded when a case originally filed in state court has been improperly removed to federal court, as long as there was an objectively reasonable basis for removal. If no objectively reasonable basis exists, the Court ruled, fees should be awarded. Read the Court's unanimous opinion.

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