The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked part of a pandemic eviction moratorium in New York State.
The court’s order forbids the enforcement of a provision of the law that barred the eviction of tenants who declared themselves under pandemic-induced economic hardship. The provision provided landlords with no means to challenge the claim in a hearing or other court procedure.
“This scheme violates the court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case,” the order states.
Six justices supported the unsigned order: Chief Justice John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissent.
Five New York landlords and one landlords’ association sued for relief from the ban on evicting self-certified tenants.
The order leaves intact the other part of New York’s eviction moratorium, which allows tenants to claim pandemic-related financial hardship as a defense against eviction in court proceedings. The landlords who sought the order did not challenge that law.
The blocked provision was supposed to expire at the end of August.
In a separate case, a federal district judge in Washington, DC, rejected a bid from a group of landlords to block the Biden administration’s renewed eviction moratorium. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, had ruled against the Centers for Disease Control’s earlier ban on evictions but her ruling was overturned by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In Friday’s ruling, she said she was bound by the Appeals Court decision.
Judge Friedrich wrote that absent the D.C. Circuit’s judgment, she would have also overturned the renewed moratorium.
“But the Court’s hands are tied,” Friedrich wrote.
But perhaps not for long. The CDC moratorium is likely bound for the Supreme Court. In June, a narrow majority Supreme Court voted against suspending the original moratorium, upholding the D.C. Circuit that had reversed Friedrich’s ruling.
Justice Kavanaugh cast the deciding vote to permit the ban to continue but said he wouldn’t uphold the moratorium again after its July 31 expiration date if it wasn’t backed by legislation. The Biden administration unilaterally renewed the moratorium, albeit in a somewhat narrower scope. Where the original moratorium applied to the entire country, the renewal is limited to renters who live in counties “experiencing substantial and high levels of community transmission” of the virus. President Joe Biden estimated that accounts for around 90 percent of renters.
“The bulk of the constitutional scholars say it’s not likely to pass constitutional muster,” Biden said at a press conference even as his administration renewed the ban.
Since the CDC moratorium applies to most of New York, it appears that landlords will not be able to start evicting tenants even though the state ban has been struck down.
The first case is Chrysafis v. Marks, No. 21A8 in the Supreme Court of the United States. The second case is Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS, No. 1:20-cv-3377 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.