The DOJ says it will appeal after a Trump-appointed judge struck down a federal eviction moratorium

Housing Advocates Boston Eviction Moratorium Sign
Housing activists gathering in Massachusetts in October.

  • DOJ attorneys on Saturday said they’d appeal a judgment striking down the US eviction moratorium. 
  • The moratorium “helps to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Brian M. Boynton, DOJ attorney.
  • A Trump-appointed judge on Thursday said the federal moratorium was unlawful. 
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The Justice Department on Saturday said it would appeal a judge’s ruling that struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s federal eviction moratorium.

On Thursday, US District Judge John Barker of the Eastern District of Texas said the creation of such a moratorium “criminalizes the use of state legal proceedings to vindicate property rights.” 

In a 21-page summary judgment, Barker, a Trump appointee, said the moratorium was unconstitutional. Giving the federal government such “broad authority” over state legal proceedings resembled a “prohibited federal police power,” Barker wrote.

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” he added. 

DOJ prosecutors filed a notice on Saturday, saying they would appeal Barker’s judgement to the US Court of Appeals for the fifth circuit.

Brian M. Boynton, DOJ acting assistant attorney general, said: “The Department of Justice respectfully disagrees with the February 25 decision of the district court in Terkel v. CDC that the CDC’s eviction moratorium exceeds Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the Department has appealed that decision.”

Eviction Moratorium Activists Massachusetts Signs DOJ
Housing activists erect a sign in front of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker’s house in Swampscott, Mass.

Boynton said: “The decision, however, does not extend beyond the particular plaintiffs in that case, and it does not prohibit the application of the CDC’s eviction moratorium to other parties.  For other landlords who rent to covered persons, the CDC’s eviction moratorium remains in effect.”

President Donald Trump signed the CDC eviction moratorium in September.

“I want to make it unmistakably clear that I’m protecting people from evictions,” he said in a statement at the time.

Congress extended the moratorium in December, keeping it in place until President Joe Biden’s term began. At the time, almost 6 million Americans were threatened by eviction or foreclosure. About 18 million people in the US were behind on their rent or mortgage payments, according to the US Census Bureau. CNN reported that evictions were disproportionately affecting people of color. 

On his first day in office in January, Biden signed an executive order extending the moratorium to the end of March.

In his Saturday statement, Boynton said, “By preventing people from becoming homeless or having to move into more-crowded housing, the moratorium helps to slow the spread of COVID-19.”





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Housing advocates warn that as the federal eviction moratorium ends, people of color are most at risk of being left without a home

eviction foreclosure moratoriums 2021
Americans are protesting a wave of evictions and foreclosures as protections aiding people who can’t afford rent or mortgage payments run out in December and January.

  • A federal evictions moratorium is set to expire on December 31, potentially leaving millions at risk of homelessness. 
  • People of color are most at risk, CNN reported. 
  • In some states, people are already being evicted despite the moratorium, the majority of them being Black or Hispanic. 
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People of color are most at risk of becoming homeless once a federal eviction moratorium expires at the end of this year, CNN reported. 

The federal moratorium was put in place beginning on September 4 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will expire on December 31, and it was estimated that somewhere between 30-40 million Americans could lose their homes without it. 

The National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that 80% of those vulnerable to the eviction crisis are from communities of color and said millions of low-income renters are at risk of losing their homes once both federal, and local moratoriums expire. 

CNN also reported that the Atlanta United Way says 95% of families it helps fight evictions are Black.

In Connecticut, the Connecticut Mirror reported that Governor Ned Lamont left the federal eviction moratorium for courts to determine if they apply, and residents have already begun to face eviction, the vast majority of whom are people of color. 

People of color have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in several ways. Many have been front line workers, who were at higher rates of exposure, as well as a demographic that is at a higher risk of severe illness due to underlying conditions. 

Jamaira Watson and her mother were evicted from her home while trying to recover from COVID-19, they told the Mirror. At the beginning of the pandemic, Watson lost a low-wage job at a hotel and got behind on her rent while waiting for unemployment benefits. She became sick with the coronavirus right after she started a new factory job. 

“I had a nervous breakdown. I am struggling,” Watson told the Mirror. 

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