The United States Urges the Supreme Court to Keep the CDC Eviction Moratorium in Effect

Alabama Associaion of Realtors, et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, et al., No. 21A23.  Response of the United States submitted August 23, 2021.


Today the United States submitted to the Supreme Court its view that the judicial stay of an order vacating the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Eviction Moratorium must remain in place during pending litigation.  The government argues that the circumstances surrounding the August 3, 2021 order halting certain evictions differ from those presented during the first, and later extended, moratorium order. The government argues that equity favors the stability the stay provides, while the realtors and landlords impacted by the CDC orders cannot establish that they will be irreparably harmed by preserving the status quo.

Times Have Changed.  The United States disputes the conclusion reached by the United States District Court for the DIstrict of Columbia that the August 3, 2021 is materially the same as its predecessor, pointing to the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, which, the government submits, provided the impetus for issuing a new CDC eviction moratorium order days after an earlier order, determined to have been unconstituional, lapsed by its own terms.  In support of its position, the government points to a reported increase in illness subsequent to the issuance of the new moratorium.  

Neither the September, 2020 nor the August, 2021 CDC Orders Is Legally Flawed.  The United States, on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its component, the Centers for Disease Control, argues that the legislature conferred upon HHS broad powers to take measures to inhibit the spread of contagious diseases, including the implementation of the eviction moratorium.  Given that HHS may plainly issue orders of quarantine, it would be unseemly to conclude that HHS could not forbid landlords from evicting tenants during a pandemic.  

The idea that the legislature needed to be more specific in its delegation of powers cannot succeed, the United States observes, where the 2021 Appropriations Act relied upon the  legislation authorizing emergency public health measures in order to appropriate funding to make landlords whole.  This incorporation recognizes the aptness of reliance on the earlier legislation, making further legislative specificity unnecessary. 

Neither Commerce Clause nor non-delegation arguments can prevail where it has been established that measures inhibiting the interstate transmission disease are permitted and where broad powers to act “in the public interest” have been upheld.

The Moratorium Suits the Circumstances.  In ordering relief from forced evictions, the CDC observed that evictions would force persons and families into homelessness, causing them to be housed in temporary shelters or other places where crowding would increase the risk of contagion.  Most importantly, the government argues, the August 3, 2021 order applies only where there exist high risks of contagion and only to those unable to meet their obligations to their landlords.

The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number.  The government and the people will suffer greatly if the government’s current plan to freeze evictionsis disturbed.  Property owners, on the other hand, have not been able to provide reliable evidence of their losses, for which, in any case, the government has promised financial assistance. 

What Might Have Been Is Not What Is.  The United States resists the position taken by realtors and landlords that Judge Kavanaugh’s observation that he would have granted review earlier if he were not assured that the eviction moratorium would expire at the end of July now compels the Supreme Court to grant review and to vacate the stay.  Remarks made in support of denying review cannot now be transformed into an indication that review would have been granted had matters been otherwise.  Not only do new facts support the new CDC measures, but in the absence of a controlling opinion a litigant may not, by pointing to a concurrence in support of an earlier denial of review, later recast that concurrence as a vote supporting review. 

Time of Ruling Unknown. The case docket does not now disclose any activity beyond the present submissions of the parties.   

Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS, No. 21A23 Response in Opposition

Having Twice Failed to Uproot the Stay that Keeps the CDC Eviction Moratorium in Place, Realtors Association Again Seeks Emergency Relief in the U.S. Supreme Court

Alabama Association of Realtors, et al. v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 21A23.  Application to vacate stay submitted on August 20, 2021.  Government to respond by noon on August 23, 2021.


Applicants Alabama Association of Realtors have filed in the United States Supreme Court an application for emergency relief which would vacate the U.S. District Court’s May 14, 2021 stay of its May 5th order vacating the Center for Disease Control (CDC) moratorium on evictions.

The emergency application was submitted the same day that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied relief from the stay for the second time.

Applicants argue that not only has the United States District Court for the District of Columbia found the CDC eviction moratoria to be unconstitutional, but also that the executive branch has admitted this to be true, but has nonetheless encouraged litigation as a delay tactic in the hope of distributing billions in rental assistance monies through the states.  

When the initial series of eviction orders lapsed on July 31, 2021, Congress failed to specifically authorize the CDC to exercise the power that it has, which legislative action Associate Justice Kavanaugh opined would be needed going forward when he denied review only because the government promised the Court that the eviction orders would end on July 31, 2021.  As this was clearly not the case, relief is now warranted, the applicants submit.

Permitting the stay to remain in place would undermine confidence in the federal government internally and in the eyes of the nation, as it would allow legislative inaction to promote admittedly unconstitutional administrative action and let the Court know its views are of no consequence.

The ongoing presence of a federal moratorium represents both an assault on the integrity of the system of government itself but also a tectonic shift in the exercise of powers affecting the rights and interests of property owners.  The eviction moratorium has been promulgated by a sovereign which is immune from suit and which will resist takings actions, provides benefits to those who are admittedly judgement-proof, and criminalizes landlords’ actions to protect their property through eviction proceedings.  Any financial benefit, in the form of rental assistance, has been lost in bogs of state bureaucracies charged with distributing the funds.

The realtors association argues that the same factors that warranted emergency relief that were present before are present now and then some.  Any reliance on ‘changed conditions’ manifested by the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus is misplaced, as the government was aware of the Delta variant when it permitted the CDC order to lapse on July 31, 2021, and the harms predicted from the variant have failed to materialize.

The applicants note that the idea that money damages will make landlords whole is not supported in law or fact.  The Administrative Procedures Act does not permit an award of money damages, and the costs of compliance with an unlawful regulatory regimen are incapable of being fairly compensated. 

 

Alabama Association of Realtors, et al. v. HHS, No. 21A23 Application for Emergency Relief August 20, 2021

New CDC Eviction Moratorium Is Defective, But Federal District Court Cannot Vacate Its Earlier Stay Where the Order of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Upholding that Stay Is the Law of the Case

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.  

Alabama Association of Realtors, et al. v. HHS, No. 20-0377Memorandum Opinion and Order dated August 13, 2021

Nixxing Ipse Dixit: U.S. Supreme Court Finds New York’s Covid-Related Tenant Financial Hardship Self-Certification Provisions Deny Landlords Due Process

Chrysafis, et al., v. Marks, No. 21A8.  Order granting injunctive relief pending disposition in Second Circuit or of Petition for Certiorari entered August 12, 2021.  


New York’s pandemic related tenant protections preclude eviction if a tenant self-certifies to financial hardship.  Landlords may not challenge such self-certifications.  This, the U.S. Supreme Court has concluded, impairs landlords’ due process interests, as established law has observed that “no man may be a judge in his own case.”  Order of August 12, 2021, citing In re Murchison, 349 U. S. 133, 136 (1952).  

By order entered August 12, 2021,  the Court has enjoined the preclusive effect of tenant self-certifications pending further judicial activity but has left undisturbed the capacity of courts to make assessments of financial hardship in eviction proceedings.  Such assessments could permit receipt of pandemic-related financial aid and could preclude eviction.

Justice Breyer, with Justices Sotomayor and  Kagan,  has dissented, opining that there is no basis in the law for the U.S. Supreme Court to reach the constitutionality of a state law measure which has not been enjoined by a state court, where there has been no determination in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, where the emergency eviction measures will lapse of their own accord at the end of August, where there is available $2 billion dollars in federal rental assistance, and where landlords are not denied, but only delayed, a hearing, a circumstance which does not violate constitutional due process principles.  

Justice Breyer’s dissent notes that there is no First Amendment compelled speech issue presented by the state’s requirement that factual information be provided to tenants. 

While it is recognized that emergency measures are not wholly insulated from judicial review, it is Justice Breyer’s sense that in this circumstance, where any right to relief is not clearly established, where tenants may face displacement earlier than anticipated, and where the state must craft and administer many scientifically and medically complex emergency measures, the public interest would favor deference to the state.  

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision has been presented to the federal court in the District of Columbia for consideration in connection with the court’s anticipated ruling on a challenge to the new federal eviction moratorium.

U.S. Supreme Court docket showing entry of order:

21A8 U.S. Supreme Court Docket

Order entered August 12, 2021

CHRYSAFIS . v. MARKS, U.S. Suprerme Court Order with Dissent August 12 2021

Submission to U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:

Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS, 20-03377, Notice of Supplemental Authority

Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS, 20-03377, Exhbit A.