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Federal Judge Cites ‘Gamesmanship’ in CDC Eviction Ban

The judge who first ruled against CDC eviction bans said the latest order is “almost identical” to earlier bans ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Monday said the Biden administration is engaging in “gamesmanship” by reinstating an eviction moratorium despite knowing the Supreme Court would likely strike it down.

U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich made the remark during a hearing in Washington in which landlords and real estate brokers were seeking to have the COVID-19 moratorium overturned, Politico and The Hill reported.

In an exchange with Justice Department attorney Brian Netter, Friedrich asked why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention re-imposed the eviction moratorium last week even after its director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, had stated the previous extension ending on July 31 would be the final one.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote last month to let that extension stand, but conservative Justice Brent Kavanaugh indicated he only joined the majority because of the CDC’s assurance that it would not extend the moratorium beyond that date.

Because of that caveat, the Biden administration initially resisted seeking to extend the moratorium, but eventually did so anyway after coming under pressure by progressive Democrats.

“Given that this order is almost identical to the CDC’s earlier order, at least the effect of it, it’s really hard in light of the Supreme Court’s decision, and the Sixth Circuit’s decision, in light of statements the administration has made both before and after the Supreme Court decision, to conclude that there’s not a degree of gamesmanship going on,” Friedrich, an appointee of President Donald Trump, told Netter.

Attorneys for the property owners, led by the Alabama Association of Realtors, accused the administration of bad faith in backtracking on the eviction moratorium, which they say is costing their members $13 billion per month.

But Justice Department lawyers said the latest renewal of the CDC’s freeze is more targeted to areas of the country experiencing surging COVID-19 caseloads due to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant – a new development that has changed the course of the pandemic.

“We’re in a new chapter in this pandemic,” Netter said. “The new, or extended, moratorium is a reflection of the updated public health situation.”

Friedrich responded by saying, “You say we’re in a new chapter, but we’re also in a new chapter with many more people vaccinated.”

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