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On September 1, 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a step into nationwide housing policy, and issued a nationwide ban on evictions. With the order, the federal agency invoked a little-known WWII-era statute that empowered the agency to “make and enforce such regulations” that “are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession.” The agency asserted that evictions presented a unique and unacceptable danger to the public in light of Covid-19.
CDC’s order was challenged almost immediately by a variety of public interest groups on a variety of statutory and constitutional grounds. At the heart of these challenges was an objection to the agency’s determination that property owners could be forced to turn over their real property to tenants who refused to pay rent.
The order was, in months-long increments, in existence for most of the past year. Meanwhile, several district courts and the Sixth Circuit invalidated the moratorium, but only with respect to individual litigants. After one trip to the Supreme Court, another extension, and a final stop back at the Supreme Court, the moratorium ended. However, related rules issued by agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as local eviction moratoria, continue around the country.
This litigation update by Caleb Kruckenberg of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which filed the first challenge to the CDC order, discusses the origins of the moratorium, including relevant Congressional action (and inaction), the legal challenges to the moratorium, recent and possible future extensions of the moratorium, and why this case was bound for resolution by the Supreme Court.
Caleb Kruckenberg, Litigation Counsel, New Civil Liberties Alliance
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