A District Court judge in Texas has ruled that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) overstepped its authority when it ordered that all evictions be stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A copy of the ruling in the case of Terkel v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can be accessed by clicking here. The defendants are expected to appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Decisions to enact eviction moratoriums rest with the state and not the federal government, ruled Judge J. Campbell Barker of the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The defendants argued that Article I of the Constitution afforded it the power to enact a nationwide moratorium, even if it had never taken such action at any other time in the history of the United States.
“Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” wrote Judge Barker, who was appointed to the bench by former President Trump, in granting the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment.
The CDC’s order, which has been extended several times, was due to expire on March 31. It generally made it a crime for any landlord to evict a tenant as long as the tenant met certain criteria, such as falling below income thresholds, an inability to to obtain government housing or find somewhere else to live, and that the tenant used best efforts to pay what he or she could. Those who violated the order faced prison and fines of up to $500,000.
The defense tried to argue that it was within its rights to regulate evictions at a national level because 15% of changes in residences every year are between states. But as Judge Barker pointed out, if data like that was enough, Congress “could also justify national marriage and divorce laws.”