Appeals court asked to block Biden's retooled eviction ban

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Opponents of the federal government’s pandemic-related eviction ban asked a federal appeals court Saturday to block the latest version of the policy, which the Biden administration rolled out under pressure last week after allowing an earlier version to expire.

Landlords and two chapters of the National Association of Realtors asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for “immediate” action to prevent enforcement of the moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The dispute, which seems certain to be resolved by the Supreme Court, looks likely to get a ruling from the D.C. Circuit by the end of next week.

Lawyers for opponents of the policy said Justice Department attorneys had agreed to a schedule calling for briefs to be filed at the appeals court through Wednesday and a ruling from that court by Thursday.

But the real estate interests also asked the D.C. Circuit judges to act right away, citing remarks President Joe Biden made last week saying that re-issuing the policy could keep it in force for a while even if the courts ultimately rule it illegal.

“Given the President’s statement that this extension of the moratorium and any litigation in its defense are meant to buy time to keep an unlawful policy in place for as long as possible, this Court should issue an immediate administrative order vacating the stay while it considers this motion,” lawyers for the landlords and real estate brokers’ groups wrote in their motion filed Saturday afternoon.

A panel of D.C. Circuit judges issued an order Saturday night adopting the proposed briefing schedule, but it did not commit to a ruling by Thursday. In addition, the three assigned judges — Obama appointee Cornelia Pillard, Trump appointee Neomi Rao and newly minted Biden appointee Ketanji Brown Jackson — did not grant the Realtors' request for immediate relief.

District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich issued a ruling in May concluding that the version of the policy in effect at that time exceeded the CDC’s authority under federal law. However, she stayed her decision, effectively allowing the policy to continue. Both the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court also turned down earlier efforts to lift the state Friedrich granted.

After the Biden administration reissued a slightly scaled back version of the policy last week, to run through Oct. 3, the opponents asked Friedrich to block it. However, in a ruling Friday, she declined.

Friedrich, a Trump appointee, said she considers the new policy illegal and she said she would have blocked it at this stage if it was up to her. But she said the D.C. Circuit’s earlier refusal to block the policy prevented her from granting such relief.

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