Supreme Court blocks part of New York deportation moratorium

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court Thursday blocked part of a moratorium on evictions in New York state that was imposed in response to the...

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court Thursday blocked part of a moratorium on evictions in New York state that was imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a move, supporters of the law say, could subject thousands of people to deportation.

“This is a very serious setback for our ability to protect tenants in the midst of a pandemic,” said State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Democrat and one of the sponsors of the moratorium law.

Randy M. Mastro, an attorney for landlords who had challenged the law, said the court ruling would allow “cases that have been stopped by the state’s moratorium law to continue so that landlords and tenants alike. can be heard ”.

Yet the court order, which was unsigned, stressed that it only applied to a provision prohibiting the eviction of tenants who fill out a form indicating that they have suffered economic setbacks at the time. following the pandemic, rather than providing evidence in court. “This ploy violates the court’s long-held teaching that ‘no man can be a judge in his own case,’” the majority wrote.

The ordinance left other parts of the law intact, including a provision that directed housing judges not to evict tenants who allegedly suffered financial hardship.

Other challenges to the moratoriums on evictions, including a recently imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may soon reach court. This federal moratorium rests on precarious legal ground in light of a decision in June in which a key judge said it could not be renewed without congressional approval.

It was not clear how many people could be immediately affected by Thursday’s decision. More than 830,000 households in New York State, the majority of them in New York, are in arrears on rent, with total debt estimated at more than $ 3.2 billion, according to an analysis of data from census by the National Equity Atlas, a research group associated with the University of Southern California.

Mr Kavanagh said it looked like landlords could immediately start filing lawsuits to evict tenants. But a patchwork of other state and federal protections remain in place that could prevent their prosecutions from succeeding, including the CDC’s moratorium on evictions, which covers most of New York, including all of New York City. York.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who is expected to become New York’s next governor in less than two weeks after Governor Andrew M. Cuomo leaves amid a sexual harassment scandal, said in a statement she would work with state lawmakers to “promptly respond to the Supreme Court ruling and strengthen the law on the moratorium on evictions.”

“No New Yorker who has been financially affected or displaced by the pandemic should be forced to leave their home,” she said.

The three liberal members of the court opposed the order. Judge Stephen G. Breyer, writing for himself and for Judges Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, said the law was due to expire in a few weeks and was not patently unconstitutional.

“The New York legislature is charged with responding to a serious and unpredictable public health crisis,” Justice Breyer wrote. “He must fight the spread of a virulent disease, alleviate the financial suffering caused by business closures and minimize the number of unnecessary evictions.

“The Legislative Assembly does not have unlimited discretion in framing this response, but in this case I would not question the determination of politically responsible officials how best to ‘protect and protect’ residents. of New York, ”he wrote, citing an earlier opinion.

The Supreme Court ruling came as New York City continued to struggle to distribute federal pandemic relief dollars to help tenants who fell behind in paying their rent during the pandemic and homeowners who lost. rental income.

Only about $ 100 million – less than four percent of the state’s total of $ 2.7 billion – had been spent, state officials said this week. Even before the court ruling, the slow pace had prompted some lawmakers to warn that, without an extension, large numbers of people could be deported. The decision only intensified those fears.

The case was brought by several small owners who said they had endured severe hardship and even homelessness due to the part of the law allowing to stay eviction proceedings by filing a form. The law does not release tenants from their obligation to pay rent or block lawsuits for unpaid rent.

Proponents of the law, enacted in December 2020, said it tackles the pandemic by reducing the likelihood that people will be forced to live in overcrowded shared housing, mitigating the economic consequences of the health crisis and alleviating the charges weighing on courts and litigants.

The owners argued that the law violated due process principles by denying them meaningful access to the courts. They also opposed the requirement to provide the forms to their tenants, saying it was a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The majority did not address this second argument, and Justice Breyer said there was good reason to be skeptical of it.

In June, Brooklyn Federal District Court Judge Gary R. Brown rejected the arguments of the owners even as he admitted that they had suffered serious financial difficulties.

Justice Brown relied on a 1905 Supreme Court precedent, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, who said states could require residents to be vaccinated against smallpox or pay a fine. By virtue of this ruling, Justice Brown wrote, courts cannot question the actions taken by state lawmakers to deal with public health crises.

He also rejected Homeowners’ First Amendment arguments, saying government-mandated disclosures and warnings are commonplace in leases, mortgages and other documents.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City refused to block the moratorium while the owners appealed. The owners then asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

State officials responded that the moratorium was a “temporary break” which was due to expire at the end of August. The owners said the moratorium may well be extended, indicating the recent extension of a federal moratorium.

In June, by a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court upheld a nationwide moratorium imposed by the CDC that was set to expire at the end of July. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who appeared to vote decisively in the case, wrote in a concurring opinion that any further extension must come from Congress.

Congress failed to act and the general federal moratorium expired. On August 3, however, the CDC announced a new order barring evictions in many parts of the country, saying that “evictions of tenants for non-payment of rent or housing could be detrimental to public health control measures” aimed at slowing the pandemic.

The order, which will expire in early October unless it is extended or blocked by a court, applies to areas of the country “with substantial and high levels of community transmission” of the virus. President Biden said the new moratorium is expected to affect 90% of Americans who are renters.

Mihir Zaveri contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Supreme Court blocks part of New York deportation moratorium
Supreme Court blocks part of New York deportation moratorium
Newsrust - US Top News
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