WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal judge who declared the previous national moratorium on evictions illegal was deeply skeptical on Monday of the Biden administration’s new order, but said she may not have the power to do so anything about it.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich has promised a decision soon in an effort by Alabama homeowners to block the moratorium imposed last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which he said was based on the spread of the disease. delta variant of COVID-19.
Friedrich suggested that the administration was engaged in a legal “game” to buy time for the distribution of $ 45 billion in rent assistance. But, citing an appeals court decision above her, she also asked an attorney for the owners, “Why aren’t my hands tied?
Friedrich, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled in May that the CDC does not have the power, under federal law, to order a stay of evictions. But she suspended her decision while the case was under appeal, allowing the moratorium to remain in place until the end of July.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the Supreme Court have denied the owners’ request to allow the resumption of evictions.
But the High Court moved by 5 votes to 4 and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is in the slim majority, said he was voting to keep the moratorium in place as it was due to expire at the end of July.
Kavanaugh has said he agrees with Friedrich and will reject any further extensions without clear congressional approval, which has not happened so far. In late July, the Cincinnati Federal Court of Appeals also declared the moratorium illegal.
The administration dropped the moratorium and said for several days that its lawyers could not find any legal authority for a new one. But as political pressure mounted from Congressional Democrats, the CDC proposed a modified moratorium, which was due to expire on October 3, which only applies in areas of high transmission of the delta variant and expires when the virus spread decreases.
Brett Shumate, a former senior lawyer in the Trump administration who represents the owners, told Friedrich she should feel free to end the new temporary ban on evictions because the Supreme Court has effectively said that it would not allow another moratorium without congressional action. Shumate counted the four dissenting judges who allegedly blocked the moratorium in June, plus Kavanaugh.
Friedrich questioned whether she should give that much weight to Kavanaugh’s opinion of a paragraph, 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 public doubts about the order.
“The court should not allow the government to get away with it,” Shumate said.
Justice Department attorney Brian Netter said the increased spread of the delta variant had altered plans to allow the moratorium to expire. “We are in a new chapter in this pandemic,” Netter said.
But he added that even if Friedrich is no more convinced by the government’s legal argument than he was in May, she should leave the moratorium in place.
“The action of the DC circuit rules,” Netter said.
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