Civil liberties group challenges eviction ban

  • Evictions

WASHINGTON – The New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonprofit civil rights organization, is challenging the federal government’s temporary ban on evictions.

The Centers for Disease Control approved the moratorium in September as a way to prevent a wave of evictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic havoc it has wreaked. The ban was set to expire Dec. 31, but Congress plans to extend it through the end of January as part of the new economic stimulus package, which has not been finalized yet.

On Monday, the NCLA filed its opening brief in its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on behalf of Rick Brown of Winchester, Virginia, and other landlords who are suing over the CDC’s order.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia declined to preliminarily block the order, and the NCLA has sought intervention by the Court of Appeals.

“The sweeping order suspends state law under the premise that doing so was ‘necessary’ to control the COVID-19 pandemic,” the NCLA said in a news release. “NCLA argues that times of crisis are when constitutional limits are needed the most.”

The organization contends that the order deprived Americans of their constitutional right to access the courts and try to regain possession of their properties from delinquent tenants. The NCLA also argued that the public’s interest, especially in a time of need, favors adhering to the rule of law and respecting basic limits on an agency’s power.

“CDC’s effort to seize control of state law must be rejected for three basic reasons: First, the CDC order vastly exceeds CDC’s limited grant of authority to take ‘necessary’ action to prevent the spread of disease in controlled ways concerning infected and diseased people and effects,” the NCLA said in the press release.

“Second, CDC has never presented any evidence that its attempt to close the courthouse doors across the country is a necessary step in stopping the spread of disease. Third, the order violates the basic constitutional guarantee of access to the courts.”

The organization is seeking a preliminary injunction, which would bar the CDC from imposing the eviction ban until the end of a trial on the merits of the case.