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Where the government is a party to a case in which a preliminary injunction is sought, the balance of the equities and public interest factors merge.
The City of Los Angeles adopted Ordinance 186606 ("the Eviction Moratorium," "City Moratorium," or "Moratorium"), which temporarily prohibited evictions of residential and commercial tenants for failure to pay rent due to COVID-19, and prohibited evictions of residential tenants during the emergency for no-fault reasons, for unauthorized occupants or pets, and for nuisances related to COVID-19. Plaintiff Apartment Association of Los Angeles County, doing business as the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, comprised of thousands of owners and managers of rental housing units, filed a complaint, alleging that the City Eviction Moratorium and Rent Freeze Ordinance violated landlords' rights under the Contract Clause of the Constitution, as well as the Due Process Clause, Takings Clause, and Tenth Amendment. Plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction.
Under the circumstances, was the plaintiff entitled to the remedy of injunction?
The court held that the plaintiff did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of its constitutional claims because the eviction moratorium issued by the city due to the COVID-19 pandemic did not deprive landlords of their contract remedies; the moratorium did not excuse tenants from their contractual obligations to pay rent, and landlords remained free to sue in contract for back rent owed. The court also held that the plaintiff did not demonstrate a likelihood of irreparable harm, or that the balance of the equities or the public interest weighed in favor of preliminary relief; the association's members would not possibly suffer irreparable harm in the absence of an order preliminarily enjoining a moratorium that, at the current juncture, did essentially the same thing as an admittedly reasonable and presumptively valid state law.