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Alabama Assn. of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Servs. - (26 Aug 2021)

Congress must specifically authorize CDC to continue with eviction moratorium imposed as relief program for alleviating the burdens caused by the COVID–19 pandemic


In March 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Re¬lief, and Economic Security Act to alleviate burdens caused by the COVID–19 pandemic. Among other relief programs, the Act im¬posed a 120-day eviction moratorium for properties that participated in federal assistance programs or were subject to federally backed loans. After the expiry of eviction moratorium, Congress did not renew it. However, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Pre¬vention (CDC) has extended the scope of moratorium covering all residential properties nationwide and im¬posing criminal penalties on violators.

The CDC’s moratorium was originally slated to expire on December 31, 2020 but the Congress extended it for one month as part of the second COVID–19 relief. As the new deadline ap¬proached, the CDC again extended its moratorium through March, then again through June, and ultimately through July.

This extension was challenged by Realtor associations and rental property managers in Al¬abama and Georgia. The U. S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the plaintiffs summary judgment, holding that the CDC lacked statutory authority to impose the moratorium and vacated the moratorium on the ground that it is unlawful. But the District Court stayed its judgment while the Gov-ernment pursued an appeal. Hence, the present application has been filed to vacate stay.

The present court, after considering all the provisions and factual situations, vacate that stay, render¬ing the judgment of District Court as enforceable. The Court observed that District Court produced comprehensive opinion concluding that the statute on which the CDC relies does not grant it the authority it claims. Further, careful review of record makes clear that the applicants are virtually certain to succeed on the merits of their argument that the CDC has exceeded its authority. It would be one thing if Congress had specifically author¬ized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old stat¬ute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumiga¬tion and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts. Thus, if a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it. Accordingly, application to vacate stay presented to the Chief Justice and by him re¬ferred to the Court is granted.


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