A federal judge in Washington on Monday accused the Biden administration of using legal 'gamesmanship' in renewing a moratorium on evictions despite an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, who previously declared the nationwide ban to be illegal, said she was skeptical of the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order but said she may lack the power to do anything about it.

Instead, she suggested the administration was trying to buy time for the distribution of some $45 billion in rental assistance.

'Given that this order is almost identical to the CDC’s earlier order... it's really hard... to conclude that there's not a degree of gamesmanship going on,' she said during a hearing. 

She promised a quick decision in an effort by Alabama landlords to block the moratorium imposed last week by the CDC, which it said was based on the spread of COVID-19's delta variant.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, who previously declared the nationwide eviction moratorium to be illegal, said on Monday she was skeptical of the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order but said she may lack the power to do anything about it

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, who previously declared the nationwide eviction moratorium to be illegal, said on Monday she was skeptical of the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention order but said she may lack the power to do anything about it

Even President Biden had admitted the new CDC order may not stand up to legal scrutiny. 'I can't guarantee you the court won’t rule that we don't have that authority but at least we'll have the ability to, if we have to appeal, to keep this going for a month - at least'

Even President Biden had admitted the new CDC order may not stand up to legal scrutiny. 'I can't guarantee you the court won’t rule that we don't have that authority but at least we'll have the ability to, if we have to appeal, to keep this going for a month - at least'

Housing advocates protest outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's office on the eviction moratorium on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in New York

Housing advocates protest outside Governor Andrew Cuomo's office on the eviction moratorium on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in New York

Friedrich, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled in May that the CDC lacked authority under federal law to order a pause on evictions. 

But she put her ruling on hold while the case was appealed, allowing the moratorium to remain in place through the end of July. 

At the same time, President Biden came under intense pressure from the left of his own party to do more to help renters struggling to pay bills during the pandemic. 

And last week CDC director Rochelle Walensky signed an order that continued the moratorium until October 3, saying that evictions could be 'detrimental' to public health virus control measures. 

However she narrowed the criteria, saying it would apply to counties experiencing 'substantial and high levels' of transmission. 

Even so, officials admitted they did not know whether they would be able to defend the measure in the courts.

President Biden himself suggested that it was a delaying tactic. 

'I can't guarantee you the court won’t rule that we don't have that authority but at least we'll have the ability to, if we have to appeal, to keep this going for a month - at least,' he told reporters.

'I hope longer.' 

By then the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had rebuffed the landlords' plea to allow evictions to resume by a narrow majority.

And the Supreme Court allowed the moratorium to stay in place, but only until the end of July. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, part of the slim majority, said he would reject any additional extension without clear authorization from Congress, which so far has not happened. In late July, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati also declared the moratorium illegal.  


Brett Shumate, a former top Trump administration lawyer who is representing the landlords, told Friedrich that she should feel free to end the new temporary ban on evictions because the Supreme Court has effectively said it wouldn't allow another moratorium without congressional action. 

Shumate counted the four dissenting justices who would have blocked the moratorium in June, plus Kavanaugh.

Friedrich questioned whether she should give so much weight to Kavanaugh's one-paragraph opinion, especially since the four dissenting justices offered no explanation for their votes.

Shumate also said the new order was issued 'in bad faith' and without legal justification, citing President Joe Biden's own publicly expressed doubts about the order.

'The court shouldn't tolerate the government getting away with this,' Shumate said.

Justice Department lawyer Brian Netter said the rise in the spread of the Delta variant altered the plans to allow the moratorium to lapse. 'We're in a new chapter of this pandemic,' Netter said. 

The hearing came days after the Biden announced another extension of pandemic protections. On Friday the Department of Education said it was giving people with federal student loans until the end of January before they would have to resume repayments, in what it said would be the final extension.

The pause - which suspended payments, interest, and collections since March 2020 - had been due to expire at the end of September after several extensions. 

The announcement represented another victory for top congressional Democrats who urged the administration to continue pandemic relief into next year.  

No comments:

Post a Comment