US District Judge John Barker argued that Congress lacked the power to authorize the CDC to stop evictions and that the moratorium threatened to undermine landlords’ rights under state law. The DOJ filed a notice on Saturday to appeal the ruling.
A federal judge in Texas ruled the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium unconstitutional on Thursday.
U.S. District Judge John Barker, originally appointed by President Trump in the eastern borough of Texas in 2018, did not go so far as to issue an injunction against the moratorium, but said he expected the health department to lift the ban.
“The federal government cannot say that it has ever used its power over interstate trade to impose a moratorium on the evacuation of residential buildings,” wrote Judge Barker. “This was not the case during the deadly Spanish flu pandemic. It did not invoke such power even during the demands of the Great Depression. At no point in our nation’s history did the federal government claim such power until last year. “
There is currently no change for tenants or landlords under the moratorium. The CDC issued the moratorium in September and it was originally supposed to expire in late December. The order was then extended to the end of January by a provision in the second stimulus package, and then the Biden government extended the order to the end of March when it took office.
The ruling follows a group of Texas landlords and owners who sued the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services in October over the moratorium. The power to stop evictions was outside the jurisdiction of the federal government.
Barker argued the same, writing that Congress also lacked the power to authorize the CDC to stop evictions and that the moratorium threatened to undermine landlords’ rights under state law. The plaintiffs were represented by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Southeastern Legal Foundation, both conservative legal groups.
“The CDC has tried to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to seize power, and the court rightly corrected that immense reach,” Robert Henneke, general counsel of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said in a statement.
The Justice Department (DOJ) filed a notice Saturday night to appeal Judge Barker’s decision, the Associated Press reported Sunday.
“The CDC’s eviction moratorium, which Congress extended last December, protects many tenants who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health expenses,” said Brian Boynton, assistant attorney general in charge of the DOJ’s civil division an explanation. “By preventing people from becoming homeless or moving into overcrowded apartments, the moratorium is helping to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
According to a survey by the Census Bureau Household Pulse, as of February 15, around 9.2 million tenants were behind and at risk of eviction. About 15 million renters said they had little to no confidence that they could pay their rent in March.
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