Federal Judge Says 'Hands Are Tied,' Can't Halt Biden Eviction Moratorium

A federal judge said Friday that her "hands are tied," so she can't halt the Biden administration's new eviction moratorium, the Associated Press reported.

Although she ruled that the ban is illegal, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said she is unable to overturn the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Friedrich previously ruled the moratorium illegal, but the appeals court rejected landlords' request to remove the ban.

The Alabama landlords who asked Friedrich to allow evictions to continue are likely to appeal her ruling again. The moratorium is set to expire October 3.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Stop Evictions Activist
A federal judge said Friday her "hands are tied" and she is unable to halt the Biden administration's new eviction moratorium. Above, activists hold a protest against evictions near City Hall on August 11, 2021, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In discussing the new moratorium imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because of COVID-19, President Joe Biden acknowledged last week there were questions about its legality. But he said a court fight over the new order would buy time for the distribution of some of the $45 billion in rental assistance that has been approved but not yet used.

As of August 2, roughly 3.5 million people in the United States said they faced eviction in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey.

Friedrich, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, wrote that the CDC's new temporary ban on evictions is substantially similar to the version she ruled was illegal in May. At the time, Freidrich put her ruling on hold to allow the Biden administration to appeal.

If the D.C. Circuit doesn't give the landlords what they want now, they are expected to seek Supreme Court involvement.

In late June, the high court refused by a 5-4 vote to allow evictions to resume. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, part of the slim majority, said he agreed with Friedrich, but was voting to keep the moratorium in place because it was set to expire at the end of July.

Kavanaugh wrote in a one-paragraph opinion that he would reject any additional extension without clear authorization from Congress, which has not been able to take action.

Biden and his aides initially said they could not extend the evictions ban beyond July because of what Kavanaugh wrote. But facing pressure from liberals in Congress, the administration devised a new order that it argued was sufficiently different.

The old moratorium applied nationwide. The current order applies in places where there is significant transmission of the coronavirus.

But Friedrich noted the moratorium covers "roughly ninety-one percent of U.S. counties," citing the CDC's COVID-19 data tracker.

"The minor differences between the current and previous moratoria do not exempt the former from this Court's order," that the CDC lacks authority to order a temporary ban on evictions, she wrote.

She also noted that Kavanaugh's opinion and decisions by other courts that either questioned or also found the earlier moratorium illegal raise doubts about the D.C. Circuit's decision.

"For that reason, absent the D.C. Circuit's judgment, this Court would vacate the stay" and allow evictions to resume, Friedrich said. But she said she was not free to do that.

Updated 08/13/2021, 1:21 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.

Eviction protestors
A federal judge who declared the earlier nationwide moratorium on evictions illegal is deeply skeptical of the Biden administration’s new order but said she lacks the power to do anything about it. Above, tenants' rights advocates demonstrate in front of the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse in Boston on January 13, 2021. Michael Dwyer, File/AP Photo