Feb. 26 (UPI) — A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the federal government cannot prohibit landlords from evicting residents who are unable to pay their rent due to COVID-19-related hardship.
U.S. District Judge John Barker’s decision goes against a national eviction ban first established under former President Donald Trump and extended by President Joe Biden.
The legal challenge was brought by landlords who argued the mandate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Congress is unconstitutional.
“Although the COVID-19 pandemic persists, so does the Constitution,” Barker wrote in his 21-page decision.
Barker said the government’s authority in ordering the ban resembles “in operation, a prohibited federal police power.”
In December, New York approved a statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures for six months.
“The court’s order today holding the CDC’s interference with private property rights under the veil of COVID-19 serves as notice to the Biden administration that the Constitution limits government power,” Kimberly Hermann, an attorney at the Southeastern Legal Foundation, told The Hill Thursday.
Niko Bowie, an assistant professor at Harvard Law School, said Barker’s order is “poorly reasoned.”
“Congress can regulate classes of economic and commercial activity,” Bowie tweeted.
“Our national government apparently lacks the ability to prevent the displacement of millions of Americans from their homes because a lone judge thinks a dictionary definition of ‘commercial’ doesn’t include evicting someone who can’t pay rent.”
The issue could ultimately end up in the Supreme Court.