Reason Roundup

CDC Can't Force Landlords To Provide Free Housing, Says Court

Plus: Mexico moves closer to legalizing marijuana, Facebook fights monopoly allegations, and more...


Court protects property rights. A nationwide eviction moratorium mandated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is outside the scope of the agency's authority, a federal court ruled yesterday. The case (Skyworks Ltd. v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) upends the CDC's September 4, 2020, ban on eviction actions against tenants who don't pay rent.

The CDC order—which is different from the eviction moratorium issued by Congress that expired last July—was first imposed through December 31, 2020, and later extended through March 31, 2021. It declared that "a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action shall not evict any covered person." It did not extend to people being evicted for property damage or reasons other than not paying rent.

The order was challenged by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a group of Ohio landlords and property managers in a lawsuit filed last October in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

On Wednesday, District Court Judge J. Philip Calabrese ruled against the CDC.

"One may view the CDC's eviction moratorium as good and essential public policy or the opposite. But those considerations are not for the Court," wrote Calabrese in his opinion. "Nor may the Court decide this case based on its own personal or policy preferences or its views of the competing public interests involved. Instead, this dispute presents a narrower question. This case turns on whether Congress has authorized the CDC to adopt a nationwide eviction moratorium."

On this question, Calabrese found that Congress had not.

The CDC's orders "exceed the agency's statutory authority…and are, therefore, invalid," he wrote.

"This decision makes clear that federal agencies can't exercise power Congress has not given them," said the Pacific Legal Foundation's (PLF) Steve Simpson, who represented the landlords, in a statement. "Now our clients no longer have to provide housing for free."

PLF is also representing plaintiffs in another challenge to the order (Chambless Enterprises, LLC v. CDC); that case is on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.


Mexico moves forward with legalizing marijuana. On Wednesday, Mexican lawmakers in the country's Chamber of Deputies voted 316-129 to legalize marijuana for recreational, not just medical, purposes. "The measure is widely expected to sail through the Senate before being sent to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has signaled support for legalization," notes The New York Times. "The measure, as of Wednesday night, would allow adults to smoke marijuana and, with a permit, grow a small number of cannabis plants at home. It would also grant licenses for producers — from small farmers to commercial growers — to cultivate and sell the crop."


Prostitution decriminalization push comes to Louisiana. State Rep. Mandie Landry (D–New Orleans) is promoting a path to decriminalize paid sex between consenting adults in the state. She plans to introduce a bill to this effect when the legislature is back in session in April. "The younger generation, people my age and younger, don't understand at all how the government could ever enter your bedroom and tell you what to do," she said. "If two people engage in a relationship in their own home, whether they exchange money or not, it's between them."


• Almost five years after being blocked from becoming a Supreme Court justice, Merrick Garland has been confirmed as the next attorney general of the United States.

• Facebook asks courts to dismiss the antitrust lawsuits against the company. "You only have to look at your phone to know that the government's assertion that Facebook monopolizes 'personal social networking services' doesn't make sense," Facebook spokesperson Christopher Sgro said in a statement. "The government ignores these realities and attempts to rewrite history with its unprecedented lawsuit."

• Massachusetts grandmother Malinda Harris is fighting back against civil forfeiture.

• Nonprofit donor disclosure requirements are a violation of the First Amendment,  explains Reason's Jacob Sullum.

• The great food appropriation debate continues (and is as dumb as ever):

• Against Biden's proposed rollback of due process in campus disciplinary proceedings: