Texas judge finds national eviction ban unconstitutional

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Nurses display a ‘Stay Home’ sign on their vehicle during a car caravan of nurses calling for people to remain home amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in El Paso on November 16, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.

Mario Tama | Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas ruled on Thursday evening that the national ban on evictions that’s been in place since September is unconstitutional.

“Although the Covid-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” U.S. District Judge John Barker wrote, siding with a group of property managers who argued that the ban exceeds the power of the federal government.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national eviction moratorium was first announced under former President Donald Trump in September 2020. It prohibited evicting renters who were financially struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Joe Biden has since extended the moratorium through March, and the latest stimulus package in the works would keep it in effect through September 2021.

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The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Landlords have criticized the CDC’s moratorium, saying the government was overstepping its authority and that they can’t afford to house non-paying tenants. There have also been court challenges to the moratorium in Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee, though they were all unsuccessful.

Advocates of the ban quickly slammed the ruling, and feared it would trigger a flood of eviction filings. The winter storms that have led to massive power outages across Texas will only worsen the situation, they say.

“This decision is a major deviation from all other district court decisions that upheld the CDC moratorium as constitutional,” said Emily Benfer, a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University.

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