Judge Rules Federal Eviction Moratorium Is Unconstitutional

In this Oct. 14, 2020, file photo, housing activists erect a sign in front of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s house in Swampscott, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

(CN) — A federal judge in Texas ruled Thursday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s halt on evictions due to the pandemic is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge John Barker, a Donald Trump appointee, wrote in a 21-page ruling that the CDC’s eviction moratorium exceeded the federal government’s authority.

“Such broad authority over state remedies begins to resemble, in operation, a prohibited federal police power,” Barker wrote.

The order was issued by the CDC last September. Introduced as a public health measure, it protected qualified tenants from evictions. The agency said evictions could increase the spread of Covid-19 because people are forced to move from their residences or seek homeless shelters.

A collection of Texas property owners sued the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services in the Eastern District of Texas in October. They argued that the agencies had overstepped their bounds and lacked the power to stop evictions.

The CDC extended the moratorium on Jan. 20, which was to last until March 31. Barker said the order encroached on the rights of property owners under state laws.

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” he wrote.

Conservative group Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, applauded Barker’s ruling.

“Today, the court held that the federal government cannot interfere with private property rights or citizen’s access to the courts to exercise their rights under state law,” said TPPF’s General Counsel Robert Henneke in a statement

“The CDC attempted to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to grab power and the court rightfully corrected this egregious overreach. This case puts down a marker. There are real, meaningful, limits to federal power under our Constitution. And pandemic or not, federal courts have a “virtually unflagging obligation” to impose those limits in cases brought before them.”

The Department of Justice did not immediately release a comment about the ruling on Thursday.

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