Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Federal Judge Strikes Down CDC’s Eviction Moratorium as Unconstitutional

'Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution...'

A federal judge in Texas ruled on Thursday that an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention halting evictions during the coronavirus pandemic was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge John Barker sided with a group of landlords and property managers who alleged in a lawsuit that the eviction moratorium exceeded the federal government’s constitutional authority.

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” Barker, a Trump appointee, wrote in the 21-page ruling.

“The federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium,” he said.

“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.”

The CDC order, initially issued by then-President Donald Trump in September, made it a crime for property owners to kick out tenants who were unable to pay rent and had no other options for affordable housing.

President Joe Biden extended those protections to last through March, but Barker argued the CDC encroached on landlord’s rights under state law.

“The CDC attempted to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to grab power and the court rightfully corrected this egregious overreach,” Robert Henneke, one of the lawyers in the case and general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said in a statement.

A group of Ohio landlords filed a similar lawsuit against the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Justice Department over the eviction moratorium.

They argued the CDC does not have the authority to void commercial contracts.

“Fortunately, Congress never gave the CDC that authority, and the Constitution’s separation of powers does not allow an agency to make up the law as it goes along,” Steve Simpson, a senior attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, wrote in the Ohio filing.

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