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Michael A. Maugans of Pathman Lewis Courtesy photo Michael A. Maugans of Pathman Lewis Courtesy photo

A recent Texas federal court ruling declaring unconstitutional the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) residential eviction moratorium may be the opening salvo in a fight to determine the extent of federal power during a national health crisis. The ruling in Terkel v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could result in a wave of new case law on federalism, the commerce clause and the ability of Congress to delegate power during an historic crisis.  Further, a similar case on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit will be closely watched by Florida landlords.

On Sept. 4, 2020, the CDC issued the Temporary Halt in Residential Evictions to Prevent the Further Spread of COVID-19. The original order, which was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020, was extended until March 31, 2021. Under the CDC’s order, landlords, owners of residential property or those with the legal power to pursue eviction were prevented from evicting certain “covered” persons from residential property.  The CDC viewed the moratorium as a valid exercise of federal authority to reduce the spread of COVID by limiting movement or preventing homelessness, a justification couched in the commerce clause of the Constitution.

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