People For the American Way

Trump Judges Stop Important Pandemic-Related Eviction Moratorium: Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

News and Analysis
Trump Judges Stop Important Pandemic-Related Eviction Moratorium:  Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears

Confirmed Judges, Confirmed Fears” is a blog series documenting the harmful impact of President Trump’s judges on Americans’ rights and liberties. Cases in the series can be found by issue and by judge at this link.

Trump Sixth Circuit Judges Amul Thapar and John Bush cast key votes  refusing to stay an injunction ordered by a Trump district judge in Tennessee against the pandemic-related eviction moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) under the Biden administration, even though similar limits on evictions were approved during the Trump Administration. The Sixth Circuit ruling in March 2021 was in Tiger Lily LLC v United States Dept of Housing and Urban Development.

Under the Trump Administration, the CDC issued an order that essentially halted evictions from rented apartments because of the tremendous risk of further health problems due to the pandemic from such evictions. A group of landlords and property owners filed a federal lawsuit in the Western District of Tennessee challenging the eviction moratorium in September, 2020. The district judge, who was nominated by President Trump, denied a preliminary injunction against the eviction suspension in November.  After the order was extended until at least until the end of March 2021 under the Biden Administration, however, the Trump district judge ruled that the continued moratorium was beyond the authority of the CDC under federal law and that it cannot be enforced in his jurisdiction in west Tennessee.

The Biden Justice Department immediately appealed and asked for the Sixth Circuit to stay the lower court order while the appeal is pending because of the possibly irreparable harm that it would cause. As DOJ explained, throwing people out of housing through eviction would cause a significant public health risk, as shown by a study that found that “lifting eviction moratoria led to a 40% increased risk” of contracting COVID-19 among those evicted and people with whom they “shared housing after eviction.”

Trump judges Thapar and Bush, however, cast decisive votes in rejecting the stay motion. Even though several prior courts had ruled that the CDC did have the proper authority under the Trump Administration, the panel claimed that the government was “unlikely to succeed” in showing that the moratorium was properly authorized, and thus did not even “consider the remaining stay factors,” including the harm that the lower court order would cause.

Even though the CDC has extended the eviction moratorium until June 30, this first appellate court ruling on the issue, made possible by Trump judges Thapar and Bush,  could have devastating impact.  As the Memphis Tenants Union put it, the decision against the moratorium “has prioritized the economic interests of landlords over the health and safety of renters in West Tennessee,”  many of whom are “Black women and working class families with children.” A ruling like this one makes it all the more important that President Biden continue submitting excellent judicial nominees like the group recently named and that the Senate advance such nominations quickly in order to help repair the “damage done to our courts” by President Trump, as reflected in this case.