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Port: The best thing we could do for those facing evictions is get the economy back to normal

PHOTO: ND Supreme Court Chief Justice Jon Jensen
North Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Jon Jensen (Forum News Service file photo)
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MINOT, N.D. — I was happy to see the justices of the North Dakota Supreme Court steer themselves back into their lane of government after an ill-advised foray into politics.

Previously the court, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, had put a pause on residential eviction proceedings.

Their justification was administrative, but the move was blatantly political.

If the justices were only concerned about doing court business during the pandemic, if they weren't responding to the political demands from left-wing groups in the region for a moratorium on evictions, why were only residential evictions paused and not, say, commercial evictions?

Can you only catch the coronavirus if you're involved in a residential eviction?



It was a political decision, and one inappropriate for the judicial branch to make.

What if some tenant or landlord wanted to challenge the legality of an eviction moratorium? What if some dispute over a lease or a contract came up, and the court's moratorium on evictions was a factor?

The venue to settle that sort of conflict is the courts, but if the courts were responsible for the moratorium in the first place, what hope do we have that they'll be objective in ruling on their policy?

That's why courts should not make policy.

EMBED: ND Supreme Court Eviction Moratorium Amendment

Anyway, now that the justices have righted this wrong, the aforementioned left-wing activists are back to pressuring Gov. Doug Burgum to issue a moratorium on evictions.


(As more evidence of judges playing politics Burgum was previously citing the court's moratorium as the reason he didn't need to issue his own.)

"Good health starts with stable housing — at least that's what Gov. Doug Burgum said in a news conference last month," Dane DeKrey, advocacy director for the ACLU of North Dakota, wrote in a recent column . "But his actions since then suggest he thinks otherwise."

Setting aside the truly crass politics on display here — I'd remind Mr. DeKrey and the ACLU that the coronavirus has caused suffering everywhere, not just among renters — do we need a moratorium on evictions now?

No, we do not.

What we need is a return to normal.

Just as the courts are getting back to doing their jobs, North Dakotans need to get back to work doing theirs.

Right now, Burgum's administration is working on a "smart restart" for North Dakota's economy. It will be a cautious trek back to how we're used to living.

Unhelpful to that effort would be more orders from Burgum inhibiting the standard practices of business, such as evicting people who don't pay for what they're using, or damage the property they're living in, or otherwise violate the terms of their leases.


Burgum is plotting a path forward.

The ACLU and others pushing for an eviction moratorium want to take us backward.

Let's go forward, not backward.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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