WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court has allowed the Biden administration’s moratorium to remain in effect for the time being and issued a swift ruling Friday in a politically charged case that is quickly making its way to the Supreme Court.
In an unsigned one-page injunction, a panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to block the government from enforcing emergency public health policies while pursuing a legal challenge by landlords, including the Alabama Association of Realtors.
The Justice Department did not immediately comment. But Patrick Newton, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, who is not a party to the case but supports the landlords and speaks on their behalf, expressed confidence that the Supreme Court would now act quickly to block the policy.
“We are disappointed with today’s ruling, but the plaintiffs will continue to fight on behalf of U.S. mom-and-pop housing providers and plan to immediately file an emergency petition with the Supreme Court,” Mr Newton said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed an eviction moratorium on Aug. 3 in counties affected by Covid-19, a category that currently covers about 91 percent of counties in the United States. It replaced an earlier nationwide ban on evictions that had been in effect since September and has been extended several times.
The ban eventually expired in July, a month after the Supreme Court allowed the moratorium to continue but strongly suggested that five judges would block the policy if the government extended it past its scheduled expiration date.
President Biden, who initially had no intention of reviving the ban, changed course in early August after President Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats came under intense pressure to act. In the meantime, the Delta variant spawned new coronavirus cases, even as it became clear that most of the $46.5 billion Congress appropriated for emergency rental assistance resources had not yet reached tenants.
While Mr Biden’s legal team advised him that enacting the revamped policy would be lawful — the Supreme Court had not set a definitive precedent — they also advised him that the policy would likely be scrapped soon, officials said. Still, with Mr Biden’s move, it appears that at least a few more weeks have been purchased to distribute the funds for rental assistance.
The government first imposed the ban last year as part of its response to the pandemic. The idea was that many people lost their jobs due to the crisis and may not be able to pay rent, potentially leading to a surge in homeless shelters and the homes of relatives, increasing the spread of the virus.
But the ban has led to legal and political complexity. Sometimes it was explicitly mandated by Congress, but when those periods passed, the CDC expanded it based on its emergency public health powers under a broadly written but vague law of 1944, which allows the government to regulate it deems necessary to limit the interstate spread of disease.
Landlords contested the policy because it exceeded the legal authority of the CDC, and a court judge, Dabney L. Friedrich of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled they were likely to win in that lawsuit and banned the government from continue to enforce enforcement. policy in the meantime — but she also appealed her ruling.
The lawsuit has since focused on whether that suspension should be lifted, meaning the government would be immediately blocked from enforcing the policy.
Last week, Judge Friedrich issued a new ruling upholding her stay, saying she did not have the power to block the renewed moratorium, though she still doubted the government would ultimately prevail. The appeals court cited its ruling to arrive at the same result, and placed the case for a return trip to the Supreme Court.