President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice said it will appeal a federal court decision that struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium as unconstitutional.
Federal prosecutors filed a notice over the weekend saying they plan to appeal the decision by U.S. District Judge John Barker, a Trump appointee, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Bryan Boynton, acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Division, said in a statement that the department “respectfully disagrees” with Barker’s ruling.
“The CDC’s eviction moratorium, which Congress extended last December, protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses.
By preventing people from becoming homeless or having to move into more-crowded housing, the moratorium helps to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Boynton claimed in the filing.
Barker argued that the CDC’s temporary moratorium, which made it a crime for property owners to evict tenants unable to pay rent or find affordable housing, was unconstitutional because the federal government does not have the authority to void commercial contracts.
“The federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium,” Barker wrote.
“It did not do so during the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic,” he continued. “Nor did it invoke such a power during the exigencies of the Great Depression. The federal government has not claimed such a power at any point during our Nation’s history until last year.”
He stopped short of issuing a preliminary injunction and said he expects the CDC to respect his ruling.
However, Biden’s DOJ said Barker’s ruling only applies to the particular plaintiffs in the case “and it does not prohibit the application of the CDC’s eviction moratorium to other parties.”
“For other landlords who rent to covered persons, the CDC’s eviction moratorium remains in effect,” Boynton said.