A Texas federal judge on Thursday ruled that the national moratorium on evictions aimed at helping victims of the coronavirus pandemic keep their homes was unconstitutional.
In a 21-page ruling, Justice John Campbell Barker said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on evictions was unprecedented and too broad, and that while individual states have the power to put such restrictions in place , the federal government does not.
“The federal government cannot say that it has ever invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a moratorium on residential evictions,” Barker wrote. “He did not do so during the deadly Spanish influenza pandemic. Nor did he invoke such power during the demands of the Great Depression. The federal government did not assert such power at any time in l history of our nation until last year. “
“Although the Covid-19 pandemic persists, the Constitution persists,” he added.
The scope of the order is unclear. Barker wrote that given “the defendants’ representations in court, it is expected that [defendants] would respect the declaratory judgment. “
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice, who represented the CDC in the case, declined to comment on the decision.
The moratorium was first enacted as part of the first coronavirus stimulus bill, the Cares Act, signed by then-President Donald Trump in March. It expired in July last year and was followed by the CDC’s order in September, which was due to expire at the end of January, but was extended until March by President Joe’s CDC director. Biden, Rochelle P. Walensky.
Walensky said the move was necessary because while the pandemic “has presented a historic threat to the health of our nation,” it has also “triggered a housing affordability crisis that is disproportionately affecting some communities.”
“We need to act to reduce cases and keep people in their homes and out of gathering places – like shelters – where Covid-19 can gain an even stronger foothold,” she said in January.
In his ruling, Barker, who was appointed to the court by Trump in 2018, said the federal government had violated the order.
“Here, the regulated activity is not the production or use of a product that is traded in an interstate market. On the contrary, the contested ordinance regulates property rights over buildings – in particular, if a owner can repossess property from an inhabitant, ”he wrote, adding:“ Real estate is inherently local ”.
It is not known whether the DOJ will appeal the decision. CDC’s order will expire on March 31.
Earlier this month, Biden extended a foreclosure moratorium and mortgage forbearance until the end of June in a bid to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.