Eviction Ban ‘Necessary’ to Prevent Delta Spread, DOJ Says
(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration asked a federal judge in Washington to uphold the new moratorium on evictions in areas of the U.S. hit hardest by the coronavirus, calling it a necessary public-health action as the Delta variant spreads.
The government was responding to a court filing this week by two landlord groups that sought to block the eviction freeze announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new ban comes after a previous nationwide moratorium expired, setting off protests by Democrats in Congress.
In its filing Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice argued the CDC is “exercising its authority to tailor a set of necessary actions to reduce the interstate spread of communicable disease.” The department said “the trajectory of the pandemic has changed dramatically as a result of the highly contagious Delta variant,” and that “based on mathematical modeling, case trends will continue to increase over the coming weeks.”
The dispute over the new CDC limits on evictions is the latest twist in a months-long legal saga. In May, U.S. Judge Dabney Friedrich blocked the earlier nationwide ban, but she stayed her ruling while the case was litigated.
The matter eventually reached the Supreme Court, which allowed the moratorium to remain in place until it expired at the end of July. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh -- the crucial swing vote in the case -- wrote that any extension of the restriction would require congressional action.
The Biden administration initially expressed reluctance to create a new eviction ban, given the likelihood that it would be overturned in the courts. But the administration eventually caved as Democratic lawmakers argued that the freeze was necessary to protect renters from the spread of the Delta variant.
On Aug. 3, the CDC issued a new, limited version of the ban that applied only to U.S. counties where the spread of the virus is most severe. The next day, two landlord groups -- the Alabama Association of Realtors and the Georgia Association of Realtors -- filed a challenge, seizing on Kavanaugh’s argument.
But in its filing, the Justice Department said the Supreme Court didn’t actually rule in favor of the landlords and that there was nothing binding about Kavanaugh’s comment on the previous moratorium.
Any harm to landlords caused by the continuation of the eviction ban 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,” the department said.
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