Supreme Court Says Private Property Rights and Separation of Powers Do Still Exist in U.S.
The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down the Biden administration’s eviction moratorium extension. In a 6–3 ruling, the Court held that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t have the authority “to promulgate and extend the eviction moratorium.”
The CDC claimed the Public Health Service Act gave them such authority. But that law specifically mentions measures like “inspection, fumigation, disinfection, sanitation, pest extermination, and destruction of contaminated animals and articles”—things that “directly relate to preventing the interstate spread of disease by identifying, isolating, and destroying the disease itself,” the Court notes, continuing:
The CDC’s moratorium, on the other hand, relates to interstate infection far more indirectly: If evictions occur, some subset of tenants might move from one State to another, and some subset of that group might do so while infected with COVID–19… This downstream connection between eviction and the interstate spread of disease is markedly different from the direct targeting of disease that characterizes the measures identified in the statute. Reading both sentences together, rather than the first in isolation, it is a stretch to maintain that §361(a) gives the CDC the authority to impose this eviction moratorium.
The ruling “is technically a procedural one, not a final decision on the merits of the case,” explains Volokh Conspiracy blogger and George Mason University professor Ilya Somin. But “it nonetheless makes clear that a majority of justices believe the new version of the moratorium is illegal. In addition, the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of the district court ruling against the moratorium may well have nationwide consequences, not limited to the specific parties in this case.”
“Even if tonight’s decision does not immediately put an end to the moratorium, it does create a precedent that lower court judges will likely use to rule against the CDC in all the other cases challenging the moratorium around the country,” Somin adds.
In any event, the ruling is an important affirmation that private property rights still exist in this country.
This is an extremely strange way to describe the end of an unprecedented year-and-a-half long expropriation of landlords. https://t.co/L6Iv2zYPe1
— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) August 27, 2021
It’s also a good stand for the separation of powers. Congress can still pass a law extending the eviction moratorium—it’s just unconstitutional for the executive branch to unilaterally make this decision. “We expect Congress to speak clearly when authorizing an agency to exercise powers of ‘vast “economic and political significance,”‘” the Court’s opinion states.
Whether supporters of the moratorium are being disingenuous or just ignorant is hard to gauge, but many have been suggesting that the Supreme Court’s ruling is somehow undemocratic. Ha! What’s actually undemocratic is letting bureaucrats at the CDC make this decision instead of democratically elected officials.
“The Government’s read…would give the CDC a breathtaking amount of authority,” the Court points out. “It is hard to see what measures this interpretation would place outside the CDC’s reach, and the Government has identified no limit in §361(a) beyond the requirement that the CDC deem a measure ‘necessary.'”
“Could the CDC, for example, mandate free grocery delivery to the homes of the sick or vulnerable?” the Court asks.
Require manufacturers to provide free computers to enable people to work
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