Supreme Court ruling strikes down CDC’s eviction moratorium
In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court struck down the Centers for Disease Control’s modified eviction moratorium, handing a victory both to property rights and limited government.
In the unsigned opinion, the Court said:
…the statute on which the CDC relies does not grant it the authority it claims. The case has been thoroughly briefed before us— twice. And careful review of that record makes clear that the applicants are virtually certain to succeed on the merits of their argument that the CDC has exceeded its authority. It would be one thing if Congress had specifically authorized the action that the CDC has taken. But that has not happened. Instead, the CDC has imposed a nationwide moratorium on evictions in reliance on a decades-old statute that authorizes it to implement measures like fumigation and pest extermination. It strains credulity to believe that this statute grants the CDC the sweeping authority that it asserts.
The Court asks whether the CDC’s expansive reading of existing law ends with evictions:
Could the CDC, for example, mandate free grocery delivery to the homes of the sick or vulnerable? Require manufacturers to provide free computers to enable people to work from home? Order telecommunications companies to provide free high-speed Internet service to facilitate remote work?
This claim of expansive authority under §361(a) is unprecedented. Since that provision’s enactment in 1944, no regulation premised on it has even begun to approach the size or scope of the eviction moratorium. And it is further amplified by the CDC’s decision to impose criminal penalties of up to a $250,000 fine and one year in jail on those who violate the moratorium.
Naturally, this has people who support the moratorium very upset. That’s their right and, if they are determined to press the issue, they should get Congress to pass legislation giving the CDC the authority it current lacks.
That doesn’t seem likely. For the time being, then, those who believe government doesn’t have unlimited power over life and property can take some comfort that at least six Supreme Court justices agree.