A divided U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for some eviction proceedings to resume in New York, blocking a provision that gave renters a shield if they said they were experiencing hardships because of the pandemic.
Over the dissents of three liberal justices, the court on Thursday sided with a group of landlords who say they have been devastated by what they contend is an unconstitutional law.
The disputed provision, which had been set to last through Aug. 31, blocked all eviction proceedings if the tenants declared that they were facing a Covid-related financial or health hardship.
“This scheme violates the court’s longstanding teaching that ordinarily ‘no man can be a judge in his own case’ consistent with the Due Process Clause,” the court said in its unsigned order.
The order doesn’t affect a separate provision that lets tenants cite hardship as a defense once eviction proceedings have started.
Much of the state is still covered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Aug. 3 federal
But the federal measure is
The suing landlords included Pantelis Chrysafis, who said he is owed more than $80,000 in rent on his single-family home in Garden City, and Betty S. Cohen, a retiree who said she is owed more than $24,000 on her Brooklyn co-op and has had to ask friends for donations to help make ends meet.
New York’s December 2020 law blocked eviction proceedings even if they were already under way. The law also required landlords to provide renters with a blank hardship form and a list of local tenant-assistance organizations.
“This law runs roughshod over property owners’ constitutional rights to procedural due process and free speech,” the landlords told the justices, adding that Governor
New York Attorney General
James argued the moratorium was on more solid legal ground than the CDC’s federal ban. This “case does not involve agency action that assertedly exceeds statutory authority, but instead a duly enacted state law exercising the state’s core police powers,” she said.
A federal trial judge in June agreed that the landlords had suffered substantial losses as a result of the moratorium, but declined to second guess the state legislature’s measures aimed at controlling the pandemic. “Courts are equipped with microscopes, while other branches of government have binoculars,” the judge said.
As a formal matter, the Supreme Court order applies only while the litigation goes forward. But with the moratorium set to expire this month, the high court action is likely to be the final word on the measure.
The case is Chrysafis v. Marks, 21A8.
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