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Good v. U.S. Department of Education

Jeffrey Good submitted disputes to each of the three major credit reporting agencies, alerting them to errors in his credit reports. Two of the credit reporting agencies corrected the errors, but the third, TransUnion, did not. Mr. Good then filed suit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) against TransUnion, as well as the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA) and the U.S. Department of Education. As to MOHELA and the Department, he alleged that they violated FCRA by failing to investigate and correct erroneous information after he notified Trans Union.

In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, MOHELA asserted that it was immune from suit as an “arm of the state” of Missouri. The Department of Education also moved to dismiss, asserting that it was immune from suit under the principle of federal sovereign immunity. The district court held that both MOHELA and the Department were immune and dismissed the claims against them.

Public Citizen represents the plaintiff on appeal. The brief first explains that MOHELA is not entitled to immunity. That a judgment against MOHELA would not be paid from the Missouri treasury and that MOHELA is organized as a separate corporation and operates autonomously from the state, among other facts, indicate that MOHELA is not an arm of the state of Missouri. The brief next addresses the Department of Education’s argument that FCRA does not waive the government’s sovereign immunity from suit. In FCRA, Congress gave consumers a right to file suit against any “person” who negligently or willfully violates the statute, and it defined “person” to include any “government or governmental subdivision or agency.” The brief explains that the statutory text unambiguously authorizes suit against federal agencies and, thereby, waives federal sovereign immunity.