Updated Aug 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge keeps eviction moratorium alive, but signals it's illegal

A sign calling for fighting evictions is set on the ground as Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) spends the night outside the U.S. Capitol.
A sign calling for fighting evictions is set on the ground the night Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) slept outside the U.S. Capitol to call for for an extension of the federal eviction moratorium. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

A federal judge denied landlords' request to pause the Biden administration's new federal eviction moratorium, saying she doesn't have the authority to do so despite her belief that the policy is illegal, according to a court document filed Friday.

Driving the news: U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich determined that the new moratorium is "virtually identical" to a previous ban that she deemed illegal in May, and should therefore be considered an "extension."

  • However, because that moratorium is subject to a previous appeals court ruling that allowed it to remain in place, Friedrich said that her "hands are tied."
  • Alabama landlords who are challenging the ban on evictions will likely appeal, per AP.
  • If the appeals court ruling doesn't go their way, they will take the case to the Supreme Court — where Justice Brett Kavanaugh has already signaled he believes the moratorium is illegal without congressional authorization, tipping the court's balance in the landlords' favor.
  • "We are pleased that the district court left the moratorium in place, though we are aware that further proceedings in this case are likely," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Friday.

Why it matters: Biden himself has acknowledged that the new moratorium is "not likely to pass constitutional muster," but suggested the legal process will buy the administration and state governments time to distribute rent relief. The new 60-day moratorium imposed by the CDC is set to expire Oct. 3.

The big picture: The CDC issued an order earlier this month that barred evictions for most of the country, following protests from Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and other progressives on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

  • The Biden administration, which initially said that it did not have the legal authority to extend the eviction ban, changed course amid pressure from Bush and other progressive Democrats.
  • The Alabama and Georgia Associations of Realtors' emergency argue that the new order exceeds the CDC's powers.
  • "The President continues to call on state and local elected officials and judges to issue local eviction moratoriums ... And, the president calls on landlords to seek out rental assistance and not evict tenants from their homes," Psaki said.

Go deeper: Landlords mount legal challenge to Biden admin's new eviction moratorium

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