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CDC asks judge to pause eviction moratorium suit

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked a federal judge Friday to enter an administrative stay of a case fighting its eviction moratorium, after a group of landlords asked the judge to immediately halt the new moratorium on Wednesday. 

“Any injury to plaintiffs caused by a temporary administrative stay is outweighed by the risk of illness and mortality if the moratorium targeting areas of high or substantial transmission is unnecessarily lifted at this moment when new cases are rapidly increasing due to the highly contagious Delta variant,” the CDC wrote in its filing.

The agency said that its new moratorium, which only lasts through Oct. 3, is necessary to keep people from losing their homes amidst a surge in infections. But landlords say that the moratorium is crushing their livelihoods — and have been fighting the order ever since it was enacted by former President Donald Trump last September.

In May, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said the ban violated the Public Health Service Act, and placed an emergency stay on her ruling so that the Justice Department could raise its appeal at the D.C. Circuit.

The federal appeals court reversed and decided to let the moratorium remain in effect, and in June the Supreme Court agreed in a 5-4 decision.

In explaining his swing vote decision, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said that although he chose to deny the request to lift the stay, he agreed with the district court that the CDC exceeded its authority. However, since the July 31 expiration was around the corner, Kavanaugh said he voted to keep the moratorium to give Congress time to create legislation to extend it. 

He said that, in his view, “clear and specific congressional authorization would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31.”

But after a last-minute effort from Congress to extend the moratorium failed, the CDC said it found the legal authority to extend the moratorium by narrowing it to only areas of high transmission.

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“The CDC caved to the political pressure by extending the moratorium, without providing any legal basis,” the Alabama Association of Realtors said in its request to lift the new eviction moratorium on Wednesday.

The group argued that the agency's extension of the moratorium conflicted with the Supreme Court’s June ruling, as the majority of the court found that it was unlawful.

But, in response, the CDC argued Friday that Kavanaugh’s view can’t be combined with the votes of the dissenting justices. 

“Until the Supreme Court acts, this court should follow the D.C. Circuit, not predictions about what the Supreme Court may decide,” the agency wrote, emphasizing the delta variant has changed the trajectory of the pandemic for the worse.

It added, “Absent a contrary ruling from the Supreme Court in a challenge to CDC’s new moratorium, this court should follow the D.C. Circuit motions panel’s determination that the moratorium should remain in effect.”

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A Jan, 2021 protest for rent relief by housing advocates.