- The real estate groups argue the CDC ‘caved’ to political pressure with the new eviction freeze.
- The request to block the moratorium could put the case back before the Supreme Court.
WASHINGTON – A group of real estate entities asked a federal court late Wednesday to block enforcement of the Biden administration’s new eviction moratorium, reopening a battle that appeared destined to put the legal challenge back before the Supreme Court.
Arguing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “caved to the political pressure” by creating what the administration called a “targeted,” 60-day freeze on evictions in counties with a high spread of COVID-19, the groups asked the district court in Washington, D.C., to immediately block the new moratorium.
“A majority of the Supreme Court made clear that the eviction moratorium exceeds the CDC’s statutory authority and could not be extended beyond July 31,” the Alabama Association of Realtors and other groups said in court papers. “The Supreme Court’s ruling was hardly ambiguous. Indeed, the White House clearly acknowledged that the Supreme Court had ruled that the CDC lacked authority to extend the moratorium.”
Under mounting pressure from Democrats, President Joe Biden announced a moratorium Tuesday on evictions in counties with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19 – a threshold that more than 80% of the country currently meets, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
The action came days after a nationwide moratorium first implemented by President Donald Trump and extended by Biden expired, leaving millions of Americans who are behind on their rent vulnerable to eviction. Landlords have objected to the extensions, arguing the freeze causes financial hardship and infringes on their property rights.
A 5-4 majority ofthe Supreme Court in June upheld a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that allowed the freeze on evictions to temporarily remain in place. The majority did so without an opinion or explanation.
But Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that he voted to keep the ban in place only because it was about to expire anyway. The CDC, Kavanaugh asserted, “exceeded its existing statutory authority” and any extension, he wrote, would require “clear and specific congressional authorization.” His one-paragraph concurring opinion was widely viewed as a sign that he would not support another unilateral extension by Biden.
Biden acknowledged that the new moratorium would be hard to defend in court, noting on Tuesday that “the bulk of the constitutional scholarship says that it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster.” But the president said that the new order would “probably give some additional time” for renters as new challenges work their way through the courts.
Administration officials have been careful to frame the CDC action as a new moratorium, not an extension of the earlier effort. In a notice to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday, the Justice Department said the CDC determined the new order “was necessary especially in light of recent spread caused by the Delta variant.”