Judge rejects motion to block NY anti-eviction law

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Law360 (June 14, 2021, 4:17 p.m. EDT) – A New York federal judge rejected a motion by a business group and several small owners to block the application of a state law preventing most evictions residential homes in the era of the pandemic, believing that the applicants’ constitutional violation arguments are unlikely to succeed.

U.S. District Judge Gary R. Brown issued the order on Friday in favor of the defendant, New York Chief Administrative Justice Lawrence K. Marks, saying state laws – such as COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act, or CEEFPA, at issue here – are generally not subject to due process.

While “the power of the legislature is not without constitutional limitation,” Justice Brown noted in the 26-page order, the length of the current anti-eviction law, viewed in the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic , is not extreme enough to override the presumption that the law is constitutional.

The owners and their co-claimant, the Rent Stabilization Association, contested in their May 6 complaint with a recent extension until August 31 of the CEEFPA, which was promulgated in December. The law limits their ability to file or enforce evictions in violation of constitutional due process rights, the owners said.

But Justice Brown wrote on Friday that this was not a situation the court should question lawmakers.

“Although the plaintiffs argue that the implementation of the extension was far from ideal, this tribunal cannot and should not question such determinations,” the order said. “Courts are equipped with microscopes, while other branches of government have binoculars. Therefore, it is best to leave general public policy decisions to these institutions.”

Friday’s decision dismissed the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction blocking the application of the CEEFPA, while also ruling in favor of Marks on the merits – a decision according to Justice Brown would speed up the process and “facilitate the process. ‘appellate review’.

The plaintiffs plan to appeal, attorney Randy Mastro of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP told Law360. A letter submitted to the court on Monday also indicates that they plan to request an emergency injunction blocking the application of the CEEFPA pending the appeal to the second circuit.

In a statement, Mastro noted Justice Brown’s apparent sympathy for small landowners, who the order said have “satisfactorily demonstrated a risk of irreparable harm”, in part because they currently cannot not evict their tenants in order to occupy or sell their rental. Properties.

“We are disappointed with this decision and intend to appeal,” Mastro said via email. “After all, the judge recognized the irreparable harm suffered by small landowners as a result of this moratorium on evictions which is now in its 15th month.”

A mix of executive orders, court orders and state laws has blocked or limited eviction proceedings statewide since March 2020.

Lucian Chalfen, spokesman for Judge Marks and the state’s judiciary, declined to comment on Monday, citing the pending nature of the case.

Ellen Davidson of the Legal Aid Society has helped represent two tenant-friendly nonprofits – Housing Court Answers and Make the Road New York – which filed amicus briefs opposing the request of the plaintiffs to block the CEEFPA.

“The decision is really based on the separation of powers,” Davidson told Law360. “When can a tribunal sit as a super-legislature and review decisions made by the legislature and decide whether they were correct or not?”

The claims that faltered on Friday closely mirror those advanced by the same owners in another federal case filed in February. This case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction on the matter on April 14, when U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert ruled that the sole defendant, Attorney General Letitia James, did not have a “requisite enforcement link” with the law.

Mastro chose to target Judge Marks this time around, as well as several county sheriffs and New York City Department of Investigation officials, telling Law360 in May that those entities were responsible for enforcing CEEFPA. But Judge Brown dismissed the case against all of Marks’ co-defendants on Friday for failure to report.

Marks is represented by Randy M. Mastro and Akiva Shapiro of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

The defendants are represented by New York Attorney General Letitia James and Assistant Attorney General Lori L. Pack.

The amici are represented by Edward Josephson and Roland Nimis of Legal Services NYC and Judith Goldiner, Ellen Davidson and Amber Marshall of the Legal Aid Society.

The case is Chrysafis et al. v. Marks et al., Case number 2: 21-cv-02516, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

–Editing by Rich Mills.

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