A federal judge in Texas ruled on Thursday that an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) temporarily halting evictions amid the pandemic is unconstitutional.
In a 21-page ruling, U.S. District Judge John Barker sided with a group of landlords and property managers who alleged in a lawsuit that the CDC’s eviction moratorium exceeded the federal government’s constitutional authority.
“Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” Barker, a Trump appointee, wrote.
The CDC order, initially issued by former President Trump in September, generally made it a crime for property owners to evict tenants who were unable to pay rent and had no options for affordable housing.
Those protections were extended by Congress and later under President Biden to last through March.
But in Thursday’s decision, Barker ruled that Congress lacked the constitutional authority to grant CDC the power to halt evictions nationwide, and said the agency’s order threatened to encroach on landlords’ rights under state law.
Conservative groups involved in the litigation hailed the decision.
“The court’s order today holding the CDC’s interference with private property rights under the veil of COVID-19 serves as notice to the Biden administration that the Constitution limits government power,” said Kimberly Hermann, a lawyer with Southeastern Legal Foundation, one of the groups that represented the plaintiffs.
Attorneys for the Justice Department who defended the federal government in the case did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Legal experts expect the case to be appealed to the Texas-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.