University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Terkel v. CDC PR-TX-0001
Docket / Court 6:20-cv-00564-JC ( E.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This civil action was filed on October 22, 2020 by one individual landlord and six business organizations challenging the validity of the CDC eviction moratorium under the United States Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. The Court granted summary judgment for the ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This civil action was filed on October 22, 2020 by one individual landlord and six business organizations challenging the validity of the CDC eviction moratorium under the United States Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act. The Court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs on February 25, 2021, and the defendants appealed.


This is a case about the constitutionality of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) eviction moratorium, which became effective on September 4, 2020, and prohibited landlords from evicting certain tenants until at least December 31, 2020. On October 22, 2020, one individual landlord and six business organizations that own residential rental property filed this lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas. They sued the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The plaintiffs sought a judgment declaring that the eviction moratorium is unconstitutional and invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act, an injunction enjoining the defendants from enforcing the eviction moratorium, and an award of costs and expenses including attorney fees. The case was assigned to Judge J. Campbell Barker.

The plaintiffs contended that the eviction moratorium exceeded the limitations of Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. They argued that the power to modify private lease agreements is neither included in the federal government's enumerated powers nor inherent in the executive power provided in Article II of the Constitution. The plaintiffs asserted that the eviction moratorium could not be justified under the Constitution's Commerce Clause, even when supplemented with the Necessary and Proper Clause. While the plaintiffs stated that the CDC's authority to combat the transmission of disease is generally justified under the Commerce Clause, they argued that the eviction moratorium does not fall into one of the three broad categories of regulation under the clause: (1) regulation of the channels of interstate commerce; (2) regulation of instrumentalities of interstate commerce; or (3) regulation of activities that substantially affect interstate commerce. Based on the plaintiffs' theory that the eviction moratorium is unconstitutional, the plaintiffs also claimed that the moratorium violated the Administrative Procedure Act's prohibition on agency actions that are contrary to constitutional rights, powers, privileges or immunities.

On the same day that they filed their complaint, the plaintiffs also moved for a preliminary injunction. On November 20, 2020, the Court ordered the parties to provide information that would counsel against considering or granting summary judgment. On February 25, 2021, the Court dismissed the claims of two of the plaintiffs for lack of standing. 2021 WL 742877 The Court concluded that since these two plaintiffs failed to submit declarations that residents of their properties claim "covered person" status and failed to allege that they were being prevented from pursuing evictions, that their claims must be dismissed for lack of standing. In the same order, the Court granted summary judgment for the remaining plaintiffs. Since the moratorium only directly affect intrastate activities, the Court focused on whether the moratorium had substantial effects on interstate commerce by analyzing four considerations: (1) the economic character of the intrastate activity; (2) whether the regulation contains a jurisdictional element that may establish whether the enactment is in pursuance of Congress' regulation of interstate commerce; (3) any congressional findings regarding the effect of the regulated activity on interstate commerce; and (4) attenuation in the link between the regulated intrastate activity and interstate commerce.

The Court found that while relationships between landlords and tenants may be characterized as "economic", that the substantial-effects test must only look at the regulated activity itself. Given that the moratorium order specifically provided that the it did not change a landlord's or tenant's financial obligations, the Court found that the regulation was not economic in character. The Court also found that the regulation did not contain a jurisdictional element since the application of the moratorium is not limited to a connection with interstate commerce. In addition, neither Congress nor the agency made any findings that the eviction moratorium order was linked to a broader regulation of commerce. Lastly, the Court found that that the relationship between interstate commerce and the criminalization of eviction is attenuated. Based on these four considerations, the Court ruled that the CDC's order exceeded the power granted to the federal government by the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. Since the Court found that the defendants were likely to respect declaratory judgment, the Court entered summary judgment for the plaintiffs and declared the eviction moratorium unconstitutional but declined to enter an injunction.

The defendants appealed on March 15, 2021.

Nicholas Gillan - 09/16/2021


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Benefit Source
CARES Act (Covid-related)
Constitutional Clause
Commerce Power
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. ยงยง 551 et seq.
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Defendant(s) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
United States Department of Health and Human Services
United States of America
Plaintiff Description One individual who owns rental property and six business organizations that own rental property
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Declaratory Judgment
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 10/22/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
E.D. Tex.
03/22/2021
6:20-cv-00564-JCB
PR-TX-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
E.D. Tex.
10/22/2020
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
PR-TX-0001-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
E.D. Tex.
02/25/2021
Opinion and Order [ECF# 45] (2021 WL 742877)
PR-TX-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | External Link | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Barker, J. Campbell (E.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-0002 | PR-TX-0001-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Barnes, Joseph Aaron Sr (Texas) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-9000
Henneke, Robert (Texas) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-0001 | PR-TX-0001-9000
Hermann, Kimberly S. (Georgia) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-0001 | PR-TX-0001-9000
O'Leary, Celia Howard (Georgia) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-0001 | PR-TX-0001-9000
Walters, Ryan Daniel (Texas) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-0001 | PR-TX-0001-9000
Weldon, Chance Dean (Texas) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-0001 | PR-TX-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Myers, Steven Andrew (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-9000
Vigen, Leslie Cooper (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-TX-0001-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -