Alista Lineburg is not a lawyer, but she assumed the role when she couldn’t find one to help her discharge $146,000 of federal student debt in bankruptcy. The process requires a separate lawsuit against the government, something that many lawyers refuse to take on given the time, expense and difficulty of winning.
Ms. Lineburg, 49, knows this all too well. Even when the bankruptcy court tried to assign her counsel, there were no takers. “The attorney called and she said, ‘You can’t win this,’” Ms. Lineburg recalled.
So she pressed on, alone.
And, despite the odds, she won her case.
“I feel like I can finally get ahead,” said Ms. Lineburg, who lives in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. She was laid off from her information technology job in June, just two months after clearing her decades-old debt, from an undergraduate degree and a master’s in business administration.
Unlike credit card, medical and other consumer debts, student loans don’t automatically disappear in bankruptcy. Debtors need to take an extra legal step — both challenging and costly — known as an adversary proceeding.
But more people in bankruptcy are beginning to use a legal process introduced in November by the Biden administration that