Thursday, August 12, 2021
The Supreme Court today enjoined a New York law that pauses evictions for tenants who self-certify that they're suffering a hardship. The ruling means that some tenants could be evicted sooner than expected, even as the government is in the process of distributing more than $2 billion in aid that could be used to pay back rent. The ruling halts enforcement of the Act pending appeal, now at the Second Circuit. (The lower courts previously denied an injunction pending appeal.)
The case, Chrysafis v. Marks, tests Part A of New York's COVID Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act (CEEFPA). The Act temporarily pauses a landlord's right to pursue an eviction proceeding when a tenant self-certifies that they suffer a financial hardship. Under the Act, a landlord can't challenge a tenant's self-certification; the landlord can only wait out the pause, which expires on August 31 (at which point evictions will proceed as usual). Even so, the Court said that this violates due process: "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 granted an injunction pending appeal--an extraordinary form of relief.
Justice Breyer dissented, joined by Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. Justice Breyer noted that the Act effected only a pause in evictions proceedings (and not a "total deprivation" of a landlord's right to pursue eviction), only for another few weeks, and at a time when the government is distributing emergency relief funds that could be used to pay back rent and avoid eviction. He also noted that the Act doesn't preclude landlords from pursuing back rent and other damages. He argued that the plaintiff-landlords failed to meet the high bar for this kind of extraordinary relief.