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Judge agrees to leave CDC eviction pause intact for now

A federal judge on Friday agreed to delay the enforcement of her ruling earlier this month that struck down a nationwide freeze on evictions, handing a temporary reprieve to cash-strapped renters.

The move allows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium to remain intact while the Biden administration appeals the judge’s May 5 decision.

In a 10-page ruling on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich agreed to stay her earlier ruling, which invalidated the nationwide freeze on evictions that was put in place by federal health officials amid the pandemic.

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In granting the emergency stay, Friedrich said the CDC’s “strong interest in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and protecting public health” outweighed other factors, including the potential loss of revenue to landlords.

The move was hailed by housing advocates.

“Without this stay, millions of families would be thrown into a spiral of irreparable and devastating harm, COVID-19 rates would spike, and policy interventions, like rental assistance, would be rendered worthless,” said Emily Benfer, a law professor at Wake Forest University. “That eviction avalanche is still on the horizon but, for today, the public health is better protected."

Enacted in September as a public health measure, the CDC order was designed to mitigate the spread of coronavirus by helping financially distressed tenants remain in their homes, instead of forcing them into homeless shelters or other crowded living spaces. The eviction pause was later extended through June.

Delaying the enforcement of her earlier ruling “will no doubt result in continued financial losses to landlords,” Friedrich, a Trump appointee, wrote Friday. “But the magnitude of these additional financial losses is outweighed by the Department’s weighty interest in protecting the public.”

In her May 5 decision, Friedrich found the CDC had exceeded its authority with the temporary eviction ban.  

The Biden administration’s appeal of that decision is pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

A number of other judges across the country have ruled on the eviction ban’s lawfulness, with landlords holding a slight advantage in their win-loss record against the federal government.