Alabama Association of Realtors, et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 20-0377-DLF. Opinion and Order issued August 13, 2021.
The federal district court in the District of Columbia has compared the August 3, 2021 Order of the Centers for Disease Control imposing a nationwide stay of evictions until October 31, 2021 and found it to be not materially different from the order preceding it, which has been found to be, and has been admitted to be, constitutionally defective.
Were it possible to do so, the federal district court said today, the court would enter an order similar to the order of vacatur issued previously. The court cannot do so, however, because the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit refused to disturb the district court’s earlier stay of its order of vacatur. The appellate court’s refusal to grant relief, which left the district court’s stay of its order of vacatur in place, is the law of the case which the district court may not now ignore.
The appellate court and the district court were not of the same analytical minds with respect to the initial stay, but this is of no moment at this time. Plaintiffs’ recourse is in the appellate court or in the United States Supreme Court.
There is Need for a Meta Crystal Ball. It is not known at this time whether the plaintiffs will once again seek relief in the United States Supreme Court prior to seeking relief or continuing its current appeal in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Although the United States Supreme Court denied plaintiffs’ earlier petition, Justice Kavanaugh opined that he would have agreed with the justices who would have granted relief but for the imminent expiration of the first Centers for Disease Control Order. While plaintiffs in this case asserted that Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion in essence created a majority that would grant relief, the United States argued the concurrence in denying relief could not be transformed into one granting relief, as plaintits wished, a position with which the district court has agreed. As the other justices’ votes are known publicly, but their analyses and opinions are not, assessment of a likely outcome if relief were sought first in the Supreme Court will no doubt provoke much discusson.
JustLawful Observation: Whether in the present posture of the case plaintiffs will renew their request for relief in the United States Supreme Court rather than in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is, of course, a matter of speculation. While much of today’s ruling may have too much of a “yes-but-no” flavor, and seem to rely on jurisprudential concepts pleasing to judges and lawyers but confounding to the public, there may be some comfort in considering that it is likely that not too much time will pass before the next round of litigation begins.