Federal Judge Strikes Down CDC’s Nationwide Eviction Ban

March 11, 2021 Updated: March 11, 2021

A federal judge struck down a nationwide eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ruling the 2020 ban was beyond the agency’s authority.

The ruling in the lawsuit, known as Skyworks Ltd. v. CDC, came on March 10. The ruling consisted of a declaratory judgment but not an injunction. It’s unclear if the Biden administration will appeal.

The legal action was filed Oct. 23, 2020, in federal court in Ohio, as The Epoch Times previously reported. Among the plaintiffs were Ohio landlord Skyworks Ltd. and the National Association of Homebuilders.

Attorney Luke Wake, who represented a group of landlords in the lawsuit, was pleased with the court’s decision.

“This vindicates the rights of landlords but it also speaks to what we’ve been saying all along—that CDC had no authority to do this,” Wake, a lawyer at the Sacramento, California-based Pacific Legal Foundation, said in an interview with The Epoch Times.

“They have authority to pursue conventional disease control measures but not an overarching, floating authority to do anything that they happen to think might be helpful. They can’t tell landlords that they can’t evict non-paying tenants and they can’t just make up rules governing businesses. There are limits to what CDC can do.”

The CDC argued the eviction ban was needed to curb the spread of the CCP virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, although tenants could invoke the ban whether they suffered from virus-related hardships or not.

Congress enacted a nationwide moratorium on evictions that expired July 24, 2020. Weeks later, then-President Donald Trump directed his administration to consider whether such a measure should be part of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 moving forward. In response, the CDC ordered a moratorium on some, but not all, evictions. That moratorium differed from the one Congress enacted and was to expire on March 31.

In the legal complaint, PLF argued Congress authorized the CDC “to take certain actions—inspection, fumigation, disinfection, and sanitation, among others—to stop the spread of infectious disease across state lines.”

“Nowhere does it authorize the CDC to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium.”

Although the pandemic “poses a significant threat to many Americans and a serious challenge to government at all levels … [it] does not suspend the normal operations of constitutional government. Under our Constitution, Congress makes the law and the executive branch enforces it.”

The CDC’s moratorium “represents a sweeping assumption of power by an administrative agency that it simply does not possess,” altering “the contractual relationships of perhaps millions of people across the country.”

“It forces one segment of the population—landlords—to bear a disproportionate share of the costs of the pandemic because they provide the rental housing that so many Americans need.”

U.S. District Judge J. Philip Calabrese, who was appointed by Trump in 2020, weighed in.

The case “turns on whether Congress has authorized the CDC to adopt a nationwide eviction moratorium,” the judge wrote.

Although “effective pandemic response depends on the judgment of reliable science—not political science … that obvious truism does not empower agencies or their officials to exceed the mandate Congress gives them.”

“The Court determines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s orders … exceed the agency’s statutory authority provided in Section 361 of the Public Health Service Act … and the regulation … promulgated pursuant to the statute, and are, therefore, invalid.”

A similar lawsuit succeeded in Texas last month.

In Terkel v. CDC, U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker, a Trump appointee, ruled against the eviction moratorium in a declaratory judgment on Feb. 25.

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” Barker wrote.

The CDC order “exceeds the power granted to the federal government to ‘regulate Commerce … among the several States’ and to ‘make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution’ that power,” he wrote, citing provisions of the Constitution.

“Today, the court held that the federal government cannot interfere with private property rights or citizen’s access to the courts to exercise their rights under state law,” said Texas Public Policy Foundation general counsel Robert Henneke.

“The CDC attempted to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to grab power and the court rightfully corrected this egregious overreach. This case puts down a marker. There are real, meaningful, limits to federal power under our Constitution. And pandemic or not, federal courts have a ‘virtually unflagging obligation’ to impose those limits in cases brought before them,” he said, quoting from the decision.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation and Southeastern Legal Foundation jointly represented a coalition of residential landlords and property managers in the legal proceeding.

The U.S. Department of Justice attorneys listed in the court’s docket as counsel of record for the government in the Skyworks case didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.