U.S. judge puts ruling against national eviction ban on hold

A federal judge late on Wednesday put her earlier ruling that the CDC lacked the authority to impose a nation-wide eviction moratorium on hold pending appeal, following a request by the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The Department of Justice respectfully disagrees with today’s decision of the district court in Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS concluding that the moratorium exceeds CDC’s statutory authority to protect public health,” Brian M. Boynton, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said in a statement.

“The department has already filed a notice of appeal of the decision and intends to seek an emergency stay of the order pending appeal.”

The parties that brought the case against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will have until May 12 to oppose the judge’s motion to temporarily stay her decision. The Justice Department will then have to respond within 4 days, as reported by Reuters.  

U.S. District Court Dabney Friedrich on Wednesday wrote in a court opinion that the CDC lacked the “legal authority” to impose a nation-wide eviction moratorium.

“The CDC’s eviction moratorium…protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses,” Boynton said.

“Scientific evidence shows that evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.”

In addition to facilitating self-isolation for those who contracted Covid-19 or who are at high risk of severe illness, eviction moratoria also assist state and local governments to implement social distancing orders, according to the CDC.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in March had issued an Order extending the eviction moratorium through June 2021.

At the time, an estimated 4 million adults “perceive they are at imminent risk of eviction,” according to a U.S. Census Bureau Census Household Pulse Survey.

“A wave of evictions on that scale would be unprecedented in modern times,” the CDC wrote.

Still, not everyone has been supportive of the freeze in evictions, in particular landlords and other realtors. At least 6 cases have been heard against the CDC Order arguing that the CDC overstepped its statutory authority, according to the summary of the case.

“A number of eviction freezes enacted by state and local governments will not be affected by Wednesday’s ruling, which concerns only the federal moratorium,” the Hill reported.

The Cares Act passed in March 2020 included a 120-day eviction moratorium on rental properties receiving federal support, though this expired in July.

In September 2020, the then-Trump-appointed CDC Director issued an Order “temporarily halting evictions” on all rental properties in the United States. This Order has been extended three times after it was set to expire on December 31, 2020: once by Congress, twice by the CDC. 

This story has been updated to reflect ongoing developments

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