Terkel v. CDC

Stopping CDC Takeover of Property Rights

About the Case

As Americans reflect on  the past year and how much power the federal government has taken for itself in the name of COVID-19, one of the most far-reaching power grabs came directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the form of a nationwide eviction moratorium. The CDC’s eviction moratorium is a severe overreach because the CDC lacks the constitutional authority to stop state eviction actions. That is why, Southeastern Legal Foundation and Texas Public Policy Foundation filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of a coalition of residential landlords and property owners challenging the CDC eviction moratorium as a violation of the Commerce Clause.

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Under the CDC eviction moratorium order, private property owners are required to allow non-paying renters to live rent-free until the federal government says otherwise, costing landlords billions of dollars in unpaid rent – all while landowners remain responsible for property taxes, mortgages, and the costs of their property. And if a property owner tries to get their property back by filing an eviction case, the federal government says it can fine them up to $100,000 and even put them in jail. 

In the lawsuit, SLF argues that the CDC’s eviction order is unconstitutional because the federal government cannot interfere with private property owners’ rights or access to the courts. When the CDC adopted the order and halted all evictions in our country, it grabbed power for itself that Congress cannot even grant it. 

The CDC uses a facially absurd and twisted logic to suggest its intrusion into private property  rights is a public health issue, which has inevitably and predictably allowed people to exploit the order. And the government has admitted as much. The CDC claims that it has the authority to suspend residential evictions for any reason, including its own views on “fairness.”

Intended or not, the CDC’s overreach will result in untold foreclosures and financial hardship to people who are simply trying to  earn a living and pay their bills.  It is in times of crisis when our constitutional protections are most needed and most vulnerable, for they are what set us as Americans apart from the rest of the world.

In February 2021, Judge Barker agreed with the plaintiffs and declared that the CDC eviction moratorium was unconstituional, setting it aside.

The court’s decision sets a critical precedent — the eviction moratorium imposed by the federal government is unconstitutional. That means that not even Congress can come in behind this decision and legislate. It is just flat-out unconstitutional. It also makes clear that even during a pandemic, the Constitution persists. For it is in times of crisis when our constitutional protections are most needed — and tragically, most vulnerable.

Case Status

Active Litigation

Court

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

Why This Matters

As Americans reflect on the past year and how much power the federal government has taken for itself in the name of COVID-19, one of the most far-reaching power grabs came directly from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the form of a nationwide eviction moratorium order.

The CDC invoked the federal government’s power over interstate commerce and pointed to COVID-19 as its reason for needing the eviction moratorium. But just like the many other regulations we have seen since March 2020, it turns out the pandemic had nothing to do with it. After SLF and TPPF filed suit, the federal government admitted as much and claimed to have the authority to suspend residential evictions for any reason, including its own views on “fairness.”

“The federal government only has those powers granted to it in the Constitution. Notably, the Constitution does not give the federal government the authority to interfere with private property rights or our clients’ access to the courts to exercise their rights under state law,” explains SLF general counsel, Kimberly Hermann.

If the federal government was correct and the Constitution gave it the power to base decisions on the vagaries of a subjective “fairness” standard, we would have no Constitution at all. Instead, we’d have a government that could (and would!) cancel anyone and their rights for any reason — a government that can suspend the rights to worship, assembly, and free speech in the name of “fairness.”

“The CDC nationwide eviction moratorium is an unconstitutional power grab plain and simple,” Hermann continues. “The federal agency is using Covid-19 to grab power that Congress cannot even grant it.” 

“The district court’s order declaring the CDC eviction moratorium unconstitutional serves as notice to the Biden administration that the Constitution limits government power,” said SLF executive director Todd Young. 

The federal courts will continue to be a primary bulwark against unconstitutional overreach by federal and state governments.  As SLF’s record shows, we have fought and won cases just like this for decades, and the current administration has shown no restraint.  We are preparing cases across the constitutional spectrum to defend against unrestrained government action.

Why This Matters

As Americans reflect on the past year and how much power the federal government has taken for itself in the name of COVID-19, one of the most far-reaching power grabs came directly from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the form of a nationwide eviction moratorium order.

The CDC invoked the federal government’s power over interstate commerce and pointed to COVID-19 as its reason for needing the eviction moratorium. But just like the many other regulations we have seen since March 2020, it turns out the pandemic had nothing to do with it. After SLF and TPPF filed suit, the federal government admitted as much and claimed to have the authority to suspend residential evictions for any reason, including its own views on “fairness.”

“The federal government only has those powers granted to it in the Constitution. Notably, the Constitution does not give the federal government the authority to interfere with private property rights or our clients’ access to the courts to exercise their rights under state law,” explains SLF general counsel, Kimberly Hermann.

If the federal government was correct and the Constitution gave it the power to base decisions on the vagaries of a subjective “fairness” standard, we would have no Constitution at all. Instead, we’d have a government that could (and would!) cancel anyone and their rights for any reason — a government that can suspend the rights to worship, assembly, and free speech in the name of “fairness.”

“The CDC nationwide eviction moratorium is an unconstitutional power grab plain and simple,” Hermann continues. “The federal agency is using Covid-19 to grab power that Congress cannot even grant it.” 

“The district court’s order declaring the CDC eviction moratorium unconstitutional serves as notice to the Biden administration that the Constitution limits government power,” said SLF executive director Todd Young. 

The federal courts will continue to be a primary bulwark against unconstitutional overreach by federal and state governments.  As SLF’s record shows, we have fought and won cases just like this for decades, and the current administration has shown no restraint.  We are preparing cases across the constitutional spectrum to defend against unrestrained government action.