Court Battles

Supreme Court may be asked to consider CDC eviction freeze

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The Supreme Court may soon be asked to weigh in on the nationwide eviction freeze enacted by public health officials to keep cash-strapped renters in their homes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement came Monday from a group of landlords that successfully challenged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) eviction moratorium in federal court earlier this month. The judge who struck down that policy, however, stayed her ruling in the Washington, D.C., court while the Biden administration appeals.

Now the challengers are seeking to have U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich’s stay lifted. If successful, it would have the effect of gutting the nationwide eviction freeze as landlords seek to remove tens of thousands of tenants who have been unable to pay rent due to financial hardship.

In a four-page letter to Friedrich, who was appointed by former President Trump, the challengers said they intend to ask both the intermediate appeals court in Washington and the Supreme Court to overturn her stay, arguing the CDC’s improved public health outlook negates the stated reason for the eviction pause.

“Although the CDC once feared that people who gather indoors after being evicted will spread COVID-19, the CDC has concluded that the threat of spreading the disease indoors is so low that vaccinated Americans do not even need to wear masks or socially distance ‘in any setting,’” wrote the the Alabama Association of Realtors and its co-challengers.

“All renters in the United States are eligible for the vaccine — and, according to the CDC’s own data, most adults have already received at least one shot,” they added.

Enacted in September as a public health measure, the CDC order was designed to mitigate the spread of the 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.

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

But last week, she granted the Biden administration’s request for an emergency stay, finding 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.

In addition to asking that Friedrich’s stay be lifted, the landlords requested that the judge require the CDC to provide an updated rationale for the policy in light of the administration’s more upbeat assessment of the public health situation.

Tags CDC eviction moratorium Coronavirus Donald Trump Evictions financial hardship Pandemic

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