Air Courier Conference of America v. American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
PartiesAIR COURIER CONFERENCE OF AMERICA, Petitioner, v. AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION,, et al
Decision Date26 February 1991
Docket NumberNo. 89-1416,AFL-CIO

498 U.S. 517
111 S.Ct. 913
112 L.Ed.2d 1125
AIR COURIER CONFERENCE OF AMERICA, Petitioner,

v.

AMERICAN POSTAL WORKERS UNION, AFL-CIO, et al.

No. 89-1416.
Argued Nov. 28, 1990.
Decided Feb. 26, 1991.

L. Peter Farkas, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Paul J. Larkin, Jr., Washington, D.C., for federal respondent supporting the petitioner.

Keith E. Secular, New York City, for private respondent.

Syllabus

The United States Postal Service's monopoly over the carriage of letters in and for the Nation is codified in a group of statutes known as the Private Express Statutes (PES). The monopoly was created by Congress as a revenue protection measure for the Postal Service vis-a-vis private competitors. Pursuant to a PES provision allowing it to suspend PES restrictions as to any mail route where the public interest so requires, the Postal Service issued a regulation authorizing a practice called "international remailing," which entails bypassing the Service and using private couriers to deposit with foreign postal services letters destined for foreign addresses. Respondent Unions, representing Postal Service employees, sued in the District Court, challenging the regulation pursuant to the judicial review provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and claiming that the rulemaking record was inadequate to support a finding that the regulation's suspension of the PES was in the public interest. The Court of Appeals vacated the District Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Postal Service and petitioner Air Courier Conference of America (ACCA), holding that the Unions satisfied the zone-of-interests requirement for APA review under Clarke v. Securities Industry Assn., 479 U.S. 388, 107 S.Ct. 750, 93 L.Ed.2d 757 and, on the merits, that the PES suspension was not justified by the public interest.

Held:

1. This Court declines to decide whether 39 U.S.C. § 410(a) exempts the Postal Service from judicial review under the APA, since the question was not argued to, nor considered by, either of the lower courts, was not raised by ACCA in its certiorari petition, was raised by the Postal Service for the first time in its brief in opposition to the petition, and is not encompassed by the questions presented upon which certiorari was granted. Pp. 522-523.

2. The Unions do not have standing to challenge the Postal Service's suspension of the PES to permit private couriers to engage in international remailing. To establish APA standing under Clarke and similar cases, the Unions must show, among other things, that the claimed adverse effect on postal workers' employment opportunities resulting from the suspension is within the zone of interests encompassed by the PES.

Page 518

This they cannot do, since the language, see, e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 1696(c) and 39 U.S.C. § 601(a), and legislative history of the PES demonstrate that, in enacting those statutes, Congress was concerned not with protecting postal employment or furthering postal job opportunities, but with the receipt of necessary revenues for the Postal Service. The PES enable the Service to fulfill its responsibilities to provide service to all communities at a uniform rate by preventing private couriers from competing selectively on the Service's most profitable routes. The postal monopoly, therefore, exists to protect the citizenry at large, not postal workers. Nor can the courts, in applying the zone-of-interests test, look beyond the PES to the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act (PRA), which, in addition to reenacting the PES without substantive changes, contains various labor-management provisions designed to improve pay, working conditions, and labor-management relations for postal employees. None of the PES provisions have any integral relationship with the PRA labor-management provisions, and the PRA's legislative history contains no indication that such a connection exists. It stretches the zone-of-interests test too far to say that, simply because the PES may be the linchpin of the Postal Service, those whom a different part of the PRA was designed to benefit may challenge a violation of the PES. Clarke, supra, at 401, 107 S.Ct., at 758, distinguished. Pp. 523-530.

3. In light of the Unions' lack of standing, this Court does not reach the merits of their claim that the PES suspension was not in the public interest. Pp. 530-531.

282 U.S.App.D.C. 5, 891 F.2d 304, reversed.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, O'CONNOR, SCALIA, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which MARSHALL and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined, post, p. ---.

Page 519

Chief Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case requires us to decide whether postal employees are within the "zone of interests" of the group of statutes known as the Private Express Statutes (PES), so that they may challenge the action of the United States Postal Service in suspending the operation of the PES with respect to a practice of private courier services called "international remailing." We hold that they are not.

Since its establishment, the United States Postal Service has exercised a monopoly over the carriage of letters in and from the United States. The postal monopoly is codified in the PES, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1693-1699 and 39 U.S.C. §§ 601-606. The monopoly was created by Congress as a revenue protection measure for the Postal Service to enable it to fulfill its mission. See, Regents of Univ. of Calif. v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 485 U.S. 589, 598, 108 S.Ct. 1404, 1410, 99 L.Ed.2d 664 (1988). It prevents private competitors from offering service on low-cost routes at prices below those of the Postal Service, while leaving the Service with high-cost routes and insufficient means to fulfill its mandate of providing uniform rates and service to patrons in all areas, including those that are remote or less populated. See J. Haldi, Postal Monopoly: An Assessment of the Private Express Statutes 9 (1974); Craig & Alvis, The Postal Monopoly: Two Hundred Years of Covering Commercial as Well as Personal Messages, 12 U.S.F.L.Rev. 57, 60, and n. 8 (1977).

A provision of the PES allows the Postal Service to "suspend [the PES restrictions] upon any mail route where the public interest requires the suspension." 39 U.S.C. § 601(b). In 1979, the Postal Service suspended the PES restrictions for "extremely urgent letters," thereby allowing overnight delivery of letters by private courier services. 39 CFR § 320.6 (1990); 44 Fed.Reg. 61178 (1979). Private courier services, including members of petitioner-intervenor Air Courier Conference of America, relied on that suspension to

Page 520

engage in a practice called "international remailing." This entails bypassing the Postal Service and using private courier systems to deposit with foreign postal systems letters destined for foreign addresses. Believing this international remailing was a misuse of the urgent-letter suspension, the Postal Service issued a proposed modification and clarification of its regulation in order to make clear that the suspension for extremely urgent letters did not cover this practice. 50 Fed.Reg. 41462 (1985). The comments received in response to the proposed rule were overwhelmingly negative and focused on the perceived benefits of international remailing: Lower cost, faster delivery, greater reliability, and enhanced ability of United States companies to remain competitive in the international market. Because of the vigorous opposition to the proposed rule, the Postal Service agreed to reconsider its position and instituted a rulemaking "to remove the cloud" over the validity of the international remailing services. 51 Fed.Reg. 9852, 9853 (1986). After receiving additional comments and holding a public meeting on the subject, on June 17, 1986, the Postal Service issued a proposal to suspend operation of the PES for international remailing. Id., at 21929-21932. Additional comments were received, and after consideration of the record it had compiled, the Postal Service issued a final rule suspending the operation of the PES with respect to international remailing. Id., at 29637.

Respondents, the American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO, and the National Association of Letter Carriers, AFL-CIO (Unions), sued in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, challenging the international remailing regulation pursuant to the judicial review provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 702. They claimed that the rulemaking record was inadequate to support a finding that the suspension of the PES for international remailing was in the public interest. Petitioner Air Courier Conference of America (ACCA) inter-

Page 521

vened. On December 20, 1988, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Postal Service and ACCA. American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO v. United States Postal Service, 701 F.Supp. 880 (1988). The Unions appealed to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and that court vacated the grant of summary judgment. American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO v. United States Postal Service, 282 U.S.App.D.C. 5, 891 F.2d 304 (1989). It held that the Unions satisfied the zone-of-interests requirement for APA review under Clarke v. Securities Industry Assn., 479 U.S. 388, 107 S.Ct. 750, 93 L.Ed.2d 757 (1987), and that the Postal Service's regulation was arbitrary and capricious because it relied on too narrow an interpretation of "the public interest." In determining that the Unions' interest in employment opportunities was protected by the PES, the Court of Appeals noted that the PES were reenacted as part of the Postal Reorganization Act (PRA), Pub.L. 91-375, 84 Stat. 719, codified at 39 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. The Court of Appeals found that a "key impetus" and "principal purpose" of the PRA was "to implement various labor reforms...

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303 practice notes
  • American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2119 v. Cohen, No. 98-1504
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 18, 1999
    ...North Shore Gas Co. v. EPA, 930 F.2d 1239, 1242 (7th Cir.1991) (citing Air Courier Conference of America v. American Postal Workers Union, 498 U.S. 517, 524, 111 S.Ct. 913, 112 L.Ed.2d 1125 (1991)). The government's argument that constitutional standing requirements have not been satisfied ......
  • City & Cnty. of S.F. v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., Case No. 19-cv-04717-PJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • October 11, 2019
    ...complaint." Id. at 176 (quoting Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 883 (1990)) (citing Air Courier Conference v. Postal Workers, 498 U.S. 517, 523-24 (1991)). For example, an allegation that § 4 of the Bank Service Corporation Act was violated considers whether plaintiffs are with......
  • Currier v. Henderson, No. C01-0156L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Washington)
    • January 30, 2002
    ...preclude judicial review." 5 U.S.C. § 701(a). 8. Plaintiffs cite Air Courier Conference of America v. American Postal Workers Union, 498 U.S. 517, 111 S.Ct. 913, 112 L.Ed.2d 1125 (1991), for the proposition that 39 U.S.C. § 410(a) is not jurisdictional. However, the Air Courier opinion did ......
  • La Clinica De La Raza v. Trump, Case No. 19-cv-04980-PJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 7, 2020
    ...v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 883, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990) ); and citing Air Courier Conf. v. Postal Workers, 498 U.S. 517, 523–24, 111 S.Ct. 913, 112 L.Ed.2d 1125 (1991) ; see also E. Bay Sanctuary I, 932 F.3d at 768 n.9 (" ‘[W]e are not limited to considering the [......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
302 cases
  • American Federation of Government Employees, Local 2119 v. Cohen, No. 98-1504
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • March 18, 1999
    ...North Shore Gas Co. v. EPA, 930 F.2d 1239, 1242 (7th Cir.1991) (citing Air Courier Conference of America v. American Postal Workers Union, 498 U.S. 517, 524, 111 S.Ct. 913, 112 L.Ed.2d 1125 (1991)). The government's argument that constitutional standing requirements have not been satisfied ......
  • City & Cnty. of S.F. v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., Case No. 19-cv-04717-PJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • October 11, 2019
    ...complaint." Id. at 176 (quoting Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 883 (1990)) (citing Air Courier Conference v. Postal Workers, 498 U.S. 517, 523-24 (1991)). For example, an allegation that § 4 of the Bank Service Corporation Act was violated considers whether plaintiffs are with......
  • Currier v. Henderson, No. C01-0156L.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District of Washington)
    • January 30, 2002
    ...preclude judicial review." 5 U.S.C. § 701(a). 8. Plaintiffs cite Air Courier Conference of America v. American Postal Workers Union, 498 U.S. 517, 111 S.Ct. 913, 112 L.Ed.2d 1125 (1991), for the proposition that 39 U.S.C. § 410(a) is not jurisdictional. However, the Air Courier opinion did ......
  • La Clinica De La Raza v. Trump, Case No. 19-cv-04980-PJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • August 7, 2020
    ...v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 883, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990) ); and citing Air Courier Conf. v. Postal Workers, 498 U.S. 517, 523–24, 111 S.Ct. 913, 112 L.Ed.2d 1125 (1991) ; see also E. Bay Sanctuary I, 932 F.3d at 768 n.9 (" ‘[W]e are not limited to considering the [......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • ADMINISTRATIVE SABOTAGE.
    • United States
    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 120 Nbr. 5, March 2022
    • March 1, 2022
    ...to challenge demotions and discharges connected to a reduction in force). (265.) See Air Courier Conf. of Am. v. Am. Postal Workers Union, 498 U.S. 517 (1991) (holding that injury to Postal Service employees' employment prospects caused by liberalization of international courier rules did n......

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