A federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled on Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not legally have the authority to uphold a federal freeze on evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to ABC News.
The ruling was made by Judge Dabney Friedrich of the D.C. Circuit Court, who subsequently ordered that the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) vacate the policy. The eviction moratorium, which had been in place since it was first implemented last year under the Trump Administration, was meant to assist those who have been unable to pay rent due to the shutdown of small businesses, forbidding landlords from evicting such tenants until said tenants can return to work and start paying their rent again.
In her ruling, Judge Friedrich noted the “serious health crisis” of the ongoing pandemic and its economic fallout, before determining that “The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.”
The Department of Justice has already requested an appeal of Judge Friedrich’s ruling, even though it is currently unclear whether or not the ruling will immediately lift the moratorium and allow evictions to resume. Friedrich ultimately agreed to put her ruling on hold on Wednesday to allow those who first challenged the moratorium policy up to a week to formally respond to the DOJ’s appeal, with the DOJ having four days to respond on its own.
Friedrich’s ruling is one of several from a federal judge with regards to the eviction policy; as such, some have claimed that it may not affect the nationwide policy, but instead will only apply directly to the plaintiffs who first brought the case. In the case of Friedrich’s ruling, the matter was first brought up by a realtors’ association based in D.C.
“While this latest ruling is written more starkly than previous ones,” said Diane Yentel of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, “it likely has equally limited application impacting only the plaintiffs who brought the case or, at most, renters in the district court’s jurisdiction.”
The original nationwide eviction policy was set to expire on its own on June 30th of this year. Although there had been rumors that the Biden Administration would attempt to extend that deadline, this ruling now brings even the original expiration date into question and may force the policy to an end even sooner.