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Maricopa County courts will continue enforcing the nationwide eviction moratorium the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic while the Department of Justice appeals a federal judge’s ruling that the agency lacked the authority to impose it in the first place.
Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court the District of Columbia ruled Wednesday that the CDC acted outside of its power by enacting the moratorium.
“Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not,” Dabney said in her ruling.
The lawsuit was brought by the Alabama Association of Realtors, which argued that the CDC did not have the authority to enact its eviction moratorium.
The CDC moratorium was the last protection in place in Arizona preventing individuals at risk from complications from COVID from being evicted. It was originally set to expire on June 30. The moratorium, which was put in place last year, has been extended multiple times.
“I have to think that because of the chaos that could ensue if the CDC order were rescinded as of today, that there has to be some kind of delay,” Scott Davis, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Justice Courts, said to the Arizona Mirror. “This is still developing, we need to see what this means.”
The Maricopa County Justice Courts, which have seen the highest numbers of evictions of any county in Arizona even during the pandemic, are waiting to hear from the Arizona Office of the Courts for guidance and to see what happens with the Department of Justice’s appeal.
Until then, the county’s justice courts plan to stay the course.
“[N]o change will take place immediately, if at all,” Davis said in a press statement.
A spokesperson for the Arizona Supreme Court told the Mirror that the Administrative Office for the Arizona Courts is currently reviewing the ruling. The Supreme Court’s decision on whether courts should continue enforcing the CDC’s eviction moratorium during the appeal will be binding on courts in all 15 counties.
“The Chief Justice anticipated the end of the moratorium, and Administrative Order 2021-53 includes guidance for how courts should proceed when the moratorium expires or is terminated,” spokesman Aaron Nash said. “Whether today’s decision requires modification is being considered.”
The Department of Justice filed its notice of appeal on Wednesday following Friedrich’s ruling.
“The Department of Justice respectfully disagrees with today’s decision of the district court in Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS concluding that the moratorium exceeds CDC’s statutory authority to protect public health,” Brian M. Boynton, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division said in a press release. “In the department’s view, that decision conflicts with the text of the statute, Congress’s ratification of the moratorium, and the rulings of other courts.”
Gov. Doug Ducey first issued a moratorium on evictions in Arizona in March 2020 but let it expire at the end of October rather than renew it. The order did not completely stop evictions but prohibited the enforcement of writs of restitution, the legal permission to evict someone. The CDC moratorium goes further, barring “any action” taken by a landlord to evict a tenant.
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