BY JANITA KAN February 26, 2021 Updated: February 26, 2021
A judge in Texas on Thursday ruled that the federal government does not have the authority to issue a nationwide eviction moratorium.
U.S. District Judge John Barker, a Trump appointee, ruled in favor of a group of property managers and landlords who challenged a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that prevented them from temporarily evicting tenants for non-payment of rent during the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
The CDC order in question was initially issued in September 2020 and was originally set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. It was extended to Jan. 31 and then again until the end of March. The order aimed to mitigate the spread of the pandemic by reducing congregation in shared living settings or in unsheltered homeless areas, and support state and local responses to the disease.
The order made it a crime for a landlord or property owner to evict a “covered person” from a residence, subject to several exceptions. Tenants who are covered by the order include those who have used their best efforts to obtain government assistance for rent or housing; or whose income falls below a certain income threshold.
A person who violated the order could face up to one year of imprisonment, to be followed by up to one year of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.
The order only pauses evictions but does not relieve tenants from rent or housing payments.
Barker said eviction moratoriums are usually enacted by states and that the lawsuit does not question the states’ authority to do so. But plaintiffs in the case are asking the court to determine whether the U.S. Constitution allows the federal government to order or legislate a nationwide moratorium on evicting specified tenants.
“After analyzing the relevant precedents, the court concludes that the federal government’s Article I power to regulate interstate commerce and enact laws necessary and proper to that end does not include the power to impose the challenged eviction moratorium,” Barker wrote in his 21-page ruling (pdf).
The Southeastern Legal Foundation (SLF) and Texas Public Policy Foundation jointly represented the plaintiffs in the case. The groups welcomed the judge’s decision.
“The court’s order today holding the CDC’s interference with private property rights under the veil of COVID-19 serves as notice to the Biden administration that the Constitution limits government power,” SLF General Counsel Kimberly Hermann said in a statement. The moratorium was first issued by the CDC under the Trump administration, and extended by Congress and then the CDC under Biden.
“The federal courts will continue to be a primary bulwark against unconstitutional overreach by federal and state governments. As our record shows, we have fought and won cases just like this for decades, and the current administration has shown no restraint. We are preparing cases across the constitutional spectrum to defend against unrestrained government action.”
The lawsuit was filed against the United States, the CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and three HHS officials responsible for the order.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.