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A ruling by a federal judge is leaving in limbo a plan to crack down on accused drug dealers nationwide by throwing them out of public housing they rent.

Federal marshals had been poised in 22 cities Monday to raid apartments in housing projects where the renter is a suspected drug dealer who faces possible prosecution for at least two felonies.But in a ruling issued late Friday, U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams ordered the federal government to give tenants "proper notice and an opportunity to be heard in court" before seizing their leases.

His initial order, earlier in the week, had applied only to the Richmond area.

The judge's expanded order left the plan in limbo.

The New York Times quoted Frank Keating, general counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as saying agency officials had yet to discuss what to do in light of the order. He said they considered filing an emergency appeal Monday.