“The Department of Justice respectfully disagrees with the February 25 decision of the district court in Terkel v. CDC that the CDC’s eviction moratorium exceeds Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Department has appealed that decision,” Brian Boynton, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, stated.
U.S. District Judge John Barker from the Eastern District of Texas on Thursday ordered in favor of a group of property managers and landowners who disputed a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order that barred them from temporarily evicting tenants for non-payment of rent throughout the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic.
The CDC order in question was originally declared in September 2020 and was initially supposed to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. It was extended to Jan. 31 and then a second time until the end of March. The order tried to lessen the spread of the pandemic by decreasing 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 some exceptions. Residents who are included by the order cover those who have used their best efforts to get government aid for rent or housing; or whose income falls under a certain income threshold.
He stated that while states normally have the right to issue eviction moratoriums, one issued by the federal government is illegal because the U.S. Constitution does not give it the authority to do so.
“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 announced in his 21-page ruling.
His ruling issues a declaratory judgment showing that the CDC order is lawless. Though he stopped short of issuing an injunction, saying that he thinks the federal government would recognize his declaration. Though he allowed the plaintiffs to seek an injunction in the event the federal government fails to act according to his ruling.
Boynton supported the CDC order, stating that it is essential to slow the spread of the pandemic.
“The CDC’s eviction moratorium, which Congress extended last December, protects many renters who cannot make their monthly payments due to job loss or health care expenses. By preventing people from becoming homeless or having to move into more-crowded housing, the moratorium helps to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Boynton said.