“The federal government cannot say that it has ever before invoked its power over interstate commerce to impose a residential eviction moratorium. It did not do so during the deadly Spanish Flu pandemic. Nor did it invoke such a power during the exigencies of the Great Depression. The federal government has not claimed such a power at any point during our Nation’s history until last year,” Barker wrote.
But the property owners argued in their lawsuit that the federal government didn’t have the power to stop evictions. Barker sided with that argument, writing in his ruling that Congress also lacked the authority to grant the CDC the power to halt evictions nationwide, and noted that the moratorium threatened to encroach on landlords’ rights under state law.
The plaintiffs were represented by two conservative legal groups, the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Southeastern Legal Foundation, which hailed the decision as a win.
“The CDC attempted to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to grab power and the court rightfully corrected this egregious overreach,” Robert Henneke, one of the lawyers in the case and general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said in a statement.
The Department of Justice declined to comment when reached by CNN. It is not clear if the agency plans to appeal the case.
Under the order, rent is not canceled or forgiven and landlords can evict tenants after the moratorium ends if they are not able to pay the back rent.
In some jurisdictions, existing tenant protections might be greater than what is offered in the CDC’s moratorium.
This story has been updated with additional information Thursday.