Ohio judge blocks federal eviction ban, but stops short of injunction

Decision marks second blow to the Trump order, which Biden extended

U.S. District Judge Philip Calabrese (Porter Wright, Google Maps, iStock)
U.S. District Judge Philip Calabrese (Porter Wright, Google Maps, iStock)

An Ohio judge has ruled that the federal eviction ban is unlawful, but stopped short of issuing an injunction to halt the moratorium across the country.

In a March 10 ruling, U.S. District Judge Philip Calabrese said that the Centers for Disease Control lacked the statutory authority to ban evictions. The decision allows landlords in the Northern District of Ohio, which includes Cleveland and Toledo, to issue eviction orders. It may also cast doubt on the federal ban’s use in other areas.

“Without question, effective pandemic response depends on the judgment of reliable science — not political science,” Calabrese said in his ruling. “But that obvious truism does not empower agencies or their officials to exceed the mandate Congress gives them.”

The ruling found that although the CDC is tasked with taking actions to protect the public health “against the interstate spread of communicable diseases,” that mandate “does not authorize such boundless action” as issuing a federal moratorium halting evictions.

Proponents of the eviction ban have pointed to research that has found displacing individuals and families through eviction may increase the spread of the coronavirus.

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The case was brought by the National Association of Home Builders, a trade association which represents multifamily landlords and residential construction groups, as well as a group of Ohio landlords, including Monarch Investment and Management Group. Monarch owns and manages 64,000 apartments in 21 states, including Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Louisiana.

Steve Simpson, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation who represented the landlords, hailed the decision as a “victory for the rule of law.”

“This decision makes clear that federal agencies can’t exercise power Congress has not given them,” Simpson said. “Now our clients no longer have to provide housing for free.”

The most immediate change will be felt in Ohio, but the ruling’s effect on the status of the federal ban is less clear.

While the Ohio judge determined the CDC order to be unlawful, and that it would be illegal for the CDC to continue to enforce it, he stopped short of issuing an injunction. Without one, the CDC cannot be held in contempt of court for continuing to carry out the ban.

Throughout the pandemic, landlord groups across the country have challenged both local eviction bans and the federal ban, which has been in place since September 2020.

The latest decision follows a February ruling in Texas, which also found the eviction ban was unconstitutional. In that case, the judge also chose not to issue an injunction.