by Bethany Blankley
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the national eviction moratorium mandated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is unconstitutional. The court said in its ruling that the matter ultimately needed to be resolved by Congress.
The three-judge panel ruled that the CDC engaged in federal overreach by mandating that tenants who are unable to pay their rent and are in breach of their rental agreements may not be evicted. The CDC had implemented a moratorium in response to millions of people losing their jobs due to governors shutting down their state economies to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“It is not our job as judges to make legislative rules that favor one side or another,” the judges wrote. “But nor should it be the job of bureaucrats embedded in the executive branch. While landlords and tenants likely disagree on much, there is one thing both deserve: for their problems to be resolved by their elected representatives.”
The court upheld a ruling from U.S. District Judge Mark Norris, who in March blocked the eviction moratorium from being implemented in western Tennessee.
The CDC had argued in court that Congress authorized the eviction freeze as part of COVID-19 relief legislation, and that issuing the moratorium was within its regulatory authority. The three-panel appeals court rejected their argument Friday.
“What’s the difference between executive-branch experts and congressional ones? Executive-branch experts make regulations; congressional experts make recommendations,” they wrote. “Congressional bureaucracy leaves the law-making power with the people’s representatives – right where the Founders put it.”
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court rule the opposite way in a 5-4 decision in a case brought by landlords seeking to end the eviction moratorium.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that while he believed the CDC had exceeded its authority by implementing the moratorium, he voted against ending it because the policy was set to expire on July 31 anyway.
“Landlords have been losing over $13 billion every month under the moratorium, and the total effect of the CDC’s overreach may reach up to $200 billion if it remains in effect for a year,” the National Association of Realtors said in an emergency petition they filed with the Supreme Court.
The CDC has not said if it plans to appeal the ruling, but since the ban is slated to end this month, the Pacific Legal Foundation argues the ruling reduces the likelihood that the CDC would renew the moratorium or appeal the ruling. The Foundation has sued the CDC twice on behalf of landlords. In Skyworks v. CDC, a court ruled that the CDC lacked statutory authority to enact the eviction ban.
“From the moment the CDC banned evictions nationwide, Pacific Legal Foundation has maintained that the CDC was acting both unlawfully and unconstitutionally,” Steve Simpson, a senior PLF attorney litigating cases against the CDC, said in a statement. “The Sixth Circuit has now confirmed that we were correct. It’s gratifying to see courts take their constitutional role seriously even during a pandemic.”
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Bethany Blankley is a contributor to The Center Square.