The Supreme Court on Thursday halted the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium, holding that it was “virtually certain” that the landlords who claimed the centers for Disease Control exceeded its legal authority would win.
The victory of the property owners was expected.
The CDC’s argument that it could unilaterally impose a nationwide moritorium in any place with high levels of covid infections was almost completely ungrounded in law. In the lower courts, a federal district judge in Washington, DC, rejected a bid from a group of landlords to block the Biden administration’s renewed eviction moratorium. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, had ruled against the Centers for Disease Control’s earlier ban on evictions, but her ruling was overturned by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In Friday’s ruling, she said she was bound by the Appeals Court decision. Judge Friedrich wrote that absent the D.C. Circuit’s judgment, she would have also overturned the renewed moratorium. “But the Court’s hands are tied,” Friedrich wrote. In June, a narrow majority on the Supreme Court voted against suspending the original moratorium, upholding the D.C. Circuit that had reversed Friedrich’s ruling. Justice Kavanaugh cast the deciding vote to permit the ban to continue but said he wouldn’t uphold the moratorium again after its July 31 expiration date if it wasn’t backed by legislation.
The Biden administration unilaterally renewed the moratorium, albeit in a somewhat narrower scope. Where the original moratorium applied to the entire country, the renewal is limited to renters who live in counties “experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission” of the virus. President Joe Biden estimated that accounts for around 90 percent of renters.
The court said: Careful review of that record makes clear that the applicants are virtually certain to succeed on the merits of their argument that the CDC has exceeded its authority. It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts. “The equities do not justify depriving the applicants of the District Court’s judgment in their favor,” the court wrote in the eight-page unsigned order. “The moratorium has put the applicants, along with millions of landlords across the country, at risk of irreparable harm by depriving them of rent payments with no guarantee of eventual recovery.” Three justice dissented from the order: Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
The case is Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS, No. 21A23 in the Supreme Court of the United States.
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