Mississippi Supreme Court Denies COVID-19 Relief Reasoning Lack of Constitutional Authority

On April 30, 2020, the Supreme Court of Mississippi entered two Orders denying relief for certain individuals that have been impacted by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic (“COVID-19”) reasoning lack of constitutional authority. Particularly and in an effort to provide relief to renters struggling to pay rent during the pandemic, the Mississippi Center for Justice filed a petition asking the Court to extend the moratorium on evictions and late rental fees until at least July 27, 2020.[1] The Motion asked the Court to both “(1) impose a temporary moratorium on all judicial proceeding of evictions against residential tenants and (2) prohibit charging late fees related to nonpayment of rent.” The Mississippi Center of Justice filed its Motion with hopes of curbing unprecedented homelessness by way of evictions to those individuals who have lost jobs and income as a result of COVID-19.

Like many other states, Mississippi’s Governor, Tate Reeves, previously issued his Safer at Home Executive Order which was put into effect on April 24, 2020—serving as a statewide hold on evictions through May 11, 2020. However, consistent with the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), the Mississippi Center of Justice’s request would essentially prevent evictions for federal housing programs through July. Currently, the CARES Act’s federal eviction moratorium bans evictions of renters with federally backed mortgages. Despite such, in its en banc Order and in Response to the Mississippi Center of Justice’s Motion, the Court denied said Motion finding that the relief requested exceeded its constitutional authority.

Similarly, the Mississippi Center for Justice and the Hope Enterprise Corporation petitioned the Court to enter an emergency rule temporarily suspending all garnishments actions until 60 days after the end of the state of emergency due to COVID-19.[2] The basis of the petition is that several individuals would be unable to pay for basic needs (i.e. food and healthcare) if collection agencies are allowed to garnish checks. Nonetheless, in its en banc Order, the Court likewise denied the petition finding that the relief requested exceeded its constitutional authority.

[1] See Motion for Temporary Adoption of Rules to the Uniform Rules of Procedure for Justice Court Imposing a Moratorium on Judicial Proceedings of Eviction Against Residential Tenants, or in the Alternative, Petition for Extraordinary Writ Imposing Moratorium on Residential Evictions, due to the Outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Motion No. 2020-1303.

[2] See Petition to the Mississippi Supreme Court to Engage in Emergency Rulemaking to Temporarily Halt Garnishment Proceedings, Motion No. 2020-1336.

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