U.S. Supreme Court Enjoins Part A of New York’s COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 Print PDF
On August 12, 2021, in Chrysafis v. Marks, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an order enjoining Part A of New York’s COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (“CEEFPA”), which was the only relief requested by the applicants (i.e., five New York landlords and one landlords’ association).
Under Part A of CEEFPA, if a tenant in an eviction action “self-certifies financial hardship”, a landlord may not contest that certification, and is denied a hearing. The Court found that “[t]his 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 noted that its order did not enjoin enforcement of the Tenant Safe Harbor Act (“TSHA”), which the applicants had not challenged. Under the TSHA, courts may consider a COVID-related hardship defense in eviction proceedings, and assess a tenant’s income prior to COVID, income during COVID, liquid assets and ability to maintain government assistance. Under those circumstances, a court may find that the tenant has “suffered a financial hardship” during the covered period, in which case the court may not issue a warrant of eviction or judgment of possession.
Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kagan, dissented.
The dissent found that the applicants had not met the standard for such drastic relief because: (1) the legal rights at issue in this case were not “indisputably clear”; (2) there were no “critical or exigent circumstances” to justify the Court’s intervention, especially considering that CEEFPA was scheduled to expire in less than three weeks; and (3) the public interest weighs in favor of honoring New York’s “especially broad” latitude to “act in areas fraught with medical and scientific uncertainties.”