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The Supreme Court recently wrapped up its first term following the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, the third in a trifecta of conservative justices President Trump nominated to the Court — conservative by reputation, at least. In practice, their rulings so far have left fellow conservatives scratching their heads.
Take for instance a recent ruling that involved a moratorium on evictions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had imposed upon landlords last September and is scheduled to expire on July 31.
To control the spread of the pandemic, the CDC banned landlords from evicting tenants who were behind in their rent. Last year, based on CDC recommendations, states shut down businesses and put in place stay-at-home orders. But if landlords can evict their tenants for being delinquent on the rent, then those people obviously can’t shelter in place. They’re either outside because they’re homeless, in a shelter where there are lots of other people around, or sharing space in a relative’s or friend’s house. This creates the potential for a “super-spreader event.” Hence the moratorium.
A group of landlords sued to get the ban lifted and won, but the Biden administration appealed, and the case eventually made it to the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh siding with the liberal justices, the Court rejected their petition.
Kavanaugh explained in a concurring opinion that although the CDC does not have the authority to impose such a ban because it was set to expire in a few weeks, he was voting to “deny the application.” He also wrote that to extend the ban beyond July 31 would require legislation from Congress.
So basically, Kavanaugh is saying that the CDC didn’t have the authority to institute the ban, but since it’s almost over, he’s going to let it stand.
Now, on the one hand, nobody likes to see someone get kicked out onto the street. But landlords have the legal right to evict a tenant for failure to pay his rent. There is a process involved, and states have different requirements that landlords have to comply with to evict someone.
But here’s the constitutional question this case raises: does a federal agency like the CDC have the authority to issue orders preventing a landlord from evicting a tenant?
The Court basically said yes. But it’s okay, according to Justice Kavanaugh, because the ban is almost over.
I think this is a decision that’s going to have legal ramifications down the road and will come up again in future cases. But it’s another example in a string of recent decisions where one or more of these so-called conservative justices ruled the other way.
Now, there’s nothing unusual about a Supreme Court justice who leans one way going the other way on a particular case; even the liberals jump fences sometimes. But with respect to Trump’s picks — Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett — it’s happened more frequently than you’d expect, and it’s got conservatives perplexed and disappointed.
For its first term, I would have to give this current Supreme Court a C-, and I think I’m being generous.
Trump was recently asked in an interview how he felt about his Supreme Court picks. He said, “Disappointed…I fought very hard for them, but I was very disappointed with a number of their rulings.”
He’s not the only one.