US appeals court sets quick schedule to consider COVID-19 eviction ban

U.S.

FILE – In this Jan. 13, 2021, file photo, tenants’ rights advocates demonstrate in front of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston. A federal judge who declared the earlier nationwide moratorium on evictions illegal is deeply skeptical of the Biden administration’s new order, but says she may lack the power to do anything about it. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich on Monday promised a decision soon in an effort by Alabama landlords to block the moratorium imposed last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which it said was based on the spread of COVID-19′s delta variant. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia late Saturday set a quick schedule to consider whether to allow a new Biden administration COVID-19 residential eviction ban to remain in place.

Earlier on Saturday, lawyers for Alabama and Georgia realtors filed an emergency request seeking to overturn the new 60-day eviction ban that was ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Aug. 3.

On Friday, a U.S. district court judge in Washington said he would have blocked the new ruling but said her hands were tied by an earlier appeals court ruling.

The appeals court said the Justice Department has until Tuesday at 9 a.m. EDT to respond and then lawyers for the landlords have until Wednesday at 9 a.m. EDT to reply. Both sides asked the court to rule by Thursday.

The White House said Friday it continues to urge state and local governments to quickly distribute $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance funds approved by Congress.

Lawyers for the landlord and real estate groups on Saturday cited President Joe Biden’s earlier statements in asking for a quick ruling.

“As the president himself has acknowledged, the CDC’s latest extension is little more than a delay tactic designed to buy time to distribute rental assistance,” the groups said urging the appeals court to consider taking immediate action to block the eviction ban’s enforcement.

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Under heavy political pressure, the CDC reversed course on Aug. 3 and issued a slightly narrower eviction moratorium just three days after the prior one expired. The current moratorium covers nearly 94% of U.S. counties, but that could change based on COVID-19 conditions.

More than 15 million people in 6.5 million U.S. households are currently behind on rental payments, according to a study, and collectively owe more than $20 billion to landlords.

In June, a divided Supreme Court agreed to let the CDC moratorium remain in effect after the agency announced it would allow the ban to expire on July 31.

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh issued a concurring opinion saying that in his view extending the CDC moratorium past July 31 would need “clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation).” 

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