Pennsylvania v. DeJoy

Decision Date25 August 2021
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 20-4096
Parties Commonwealth of PENNSYLVANIA, et al. v. Louis DEJOY in his Official Capacity as United States Postmaster General, et al.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

556 F.Supp.3d 461

Commonwealth of PENNSYLVANIA, et al.
v.
Louis DEJOY in his Official Capacity as United States Postmaster General, et al.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 20-4096

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.

Filed August 25, 2021


556 F.Supp.3d 463

Brendan Downes, Kathleen M. Konopka, Office of the Attorney General, Washington, DC, David C. Kravitz, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, Boston, MA, Jacob B. Boyer, Michael J. Fischer, Ryan Blake Smith, Aimee D. Thomson, Stephen R. Kovatis, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Philadelphia, PA, Sarah G. Boyce, NC Dept. of Justice, Raleigh, NC, Susan P. Herman, Maine Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, ME, for Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Anthony P. O'Brien, Office of the Attorney General, Sacramento, CA, Jasleen Singh, California Department of Justice, Los Angeles, CA, Lisa Catherine Ehrlich, California Dept. of Justice, Office of the Attorney General, San Francisco, CA, Michael J. Fischer, Ryan Blake Smith, Aimee D. Thomson, PA Office of Attorney General, Philadelphia, PA, for State of California.

Michael J. Fischer, Aimee D. Thomson, PA Office of Attorney General, Philadelphia, PA, Vanessa L. Kassab, Delaware Dept. of Justice, Wilmington, DE, for State of Delaware.

Michael J. Fischer, Aimee D. Thomson, PA Office of Attorney General, Philadelphia, PA, for District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, State of North Carolina.

Michael J. Fischer, Aimee D. Thomson, PA Office of Attorney General, Philadelphia, PA, Paul E. Suitter, Susan P. Herman, Maine Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, ME, for State of Maine.

Kuntal V. Cholera, John Robinson, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Louis DeJoy, Robert M. Duncan.

Kuntal V. Cholera, John Robinson, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, Eric D. Gill, U.S. Attorney's Office, Philadelphia, PA, for United States Postal Service.

MEMORANDUM

McHUGH, United States District Judge

556 F.Supp.3d 464

This is an action brought by six states and the District of Columbia to enjoin certain changes made by the United States Postal Service during the summer of 2020. At issue is whether the Postal Service exceeded its authority when it instituted dozens of cost-cutting measures, which included restricting late and extra trips by trucks and letter carriers and instituting overtime restrictions. The most significant of those policies— the drastic restriction of late and extra trips—was touted by the Postmaster General as a "transformative" change. But that change delayed the mail nationwide, cutting against core values of the Postal Service, "no mail left behind" and "every piece, every day," and disrupting essential government functions of the Plaintiff-states. Having already granted a preliminary injunction with respect to Plaintiffs’ claims under Count I—that the Postal Service made significant, nationwide changes without consulting with the Postal Regulatory Commission—, the parties’ cross motions for summary judgment as to Counts I and II are now ripe for disposition.1 Plaintiffs seek both declaratory relief and a permanent injunction, and Defendants seek a complete dismissal of all claims.

For the reasons set forth below, I will require a preliminary evidentiary hearing as to Article III standing with respect to Plaintiffs’ claim that Defendants’ late and extra trip and overtime policies violated the statutory mandates that USPS give "highest consideration" to the expeditious delivery of important letter mail, as well as "plan ... adequate and efficient postal services," and "maintain an efficient system of ... delivery of the mail." 39 U.S.C. § 101(e) ; 39 U.S.C. §§ 403(a-b). In all other respects, Defendants’ cross-motion will be granted, and the Plaintiffs’ claims dismissed.

I. RELEVANT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE

A. Plaintiffs’ Complaint

On August 21, 2020, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive

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relief in response to several policies enacted by the Postal Service during the summer of 2020. See Compl., ECF 1. Those policies, undertaken shortly after Louis DeJoy assumed his role as Postmaster General in June 2020, were ostensibly meant "to achieve optimal efficiency" and to address the Postal Service's financial woes. Defs.’ Memo. L. Mot. Sum. J., ECF 125-1 at 8; see USPS OIG Report No. 20-292-R21, "Operational Changes to Mail Delivery (Oct. 19, 2020), Pls.’ Mot. Sum. J. Ex. 52, ECF 121-3 at 1.2

The policies included fifty-seven "Do-It-Now Strategies," enacted as part of an annual process wherein "Postal Service senior leadership identifies strategies that can be implemented in short order to streamline operations and enhance postal efficiency." Defs.’ Memo. L. Mot. Sum. J. at 13; see USPS OIG Report No. 20-292-R21, "Operational Changes to Mail Delivery (Oct. 19, 2020) at 2. The fifty-seven Do-It-Now Strategies were intended to save sixty-four million workhours, and included drastic reductions in the use of late and extra trips3 to advance or deliver mail that, for any number of reasons, had not been transported on schedule within the Postal Service's surface transportation network.4 USPS OIG Report No. 21-013-R21, "Deployment of Operational Changes," (Nov. 6, 2020), Pls.’ Ex. 53, ECF 121-3 at 1, 7; USPS OIG Report No. 20-144-R20, "Transportation Network Optimization," (June 5, 2020), Defs.’ Ex. 7, ECF 125-4 at 2. The Postal Service had previously relied heavily on such late and extra trips (and overtime) to mitigate delays that regularly occur in the network, in an effort to achieve its historic commitment to a policy of excellent service, what many in the organization refer to as "every piece, every day." Id. ; USPS OIG Report No. 20-144-R20, "Transportation Network Optimization," (June 5, 2020) at 10-11, 13; McAdams Dep. 142: 13-24, 143: 1-24, Pls.’ Ex. 59, ECF 121-4 (filed under seal).

Plaintiffs’ Complaint was one of several lawsuits around the country alleging that the changes slowed the delivery of mail and disrupted essential governmental functions. See Compl. ¶¶ 192-194. These disruptions, troubling enough in ordinary times, were of particular concern given the then-upcoming November 2020 election, where a record number of mail-in votes

556 F.Supp.3d 466

were expected to be cast. Id. ¶ 195; see Pennsylvania v. DeJoy , 490 F. Supp. 3d 833, 855 (E.D. Pa. 2020), order clarified , No. CV 20-4096, 2020 WL 6580462 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 9, 2020) (in granting a preliminary injunction in September of 2020, I observed that it might be considered reckless to implement this major initiative four months before a national election). In Count I, Plaintiffs complained that these initiatives were undertaken hastily and without seeking an advisory opinion from the Postal Regulatory Commission, as mandated by the Postal Reorganization Act (PRA) (as amended).5 See 39 U.S.C. § 3661(b). In Count II, Plaintiffs alleged that these changes were in violation of the Postal Service's substantive obligations to "plan, develop, promote, and provide adequate and efficient postal services," 39 U.S.C. § 403(a), "to maintain an efficient system of ... delivery of the mail," 39 U.S.C. § 403(b)(1), and to give highest consideration to the expeditious delivery of important letter mail. 39 U.S.C. § 101(e).

B. The Late and Extra Trip and Overtime Policies

Because Plaintiffs’ claims under Count I and II ultimately hinge on the planning and implementation of Defendants’ late and extra trip and overtime policies, a more in-depth summary of the history of those policies as they relate to timely service of the mail is warranted at the outset.

The use of late and extra trips by the Postal Service is best understood as one of the primary means through which it has historically mitigated routine delays that occur within its transportation network. According to the Postal Service Office of Inspector General, as of June of 2020, USPS had "routinely use[d]" late and extra trips to mitigate issues within the transportation network, such as misaligned scheduling or unexpected additional volume, in its attempt to provide exceptional service to the public. See USPS OIG Report No. 20-144-R20, "Transportation Network Optimization," (June 5, 2020) at 10-11, 13 (discussing how USPS "supplement[s] regularly scheduled transportation with exceptional service" using late and extra trips); McAdams Dep. 76: 24, 77: 1-6. For example, it was commonplace for a plant to hold a truck for a short while past its scheduled departure time (i.e., cause a "late trip") to allow the final container of processed mail to be loaded on board, or for the plant to send an extra truck (i.e., an "extra trip") with mail that missed a scheduled departure. Cassel Decl. ¶ 30, Pls.’ Ex. 61, ECF 121-4; Cintron Dep. 40:7-15 (Sept. 22, 2020), Pls.’ Ex. 55, ECF 121-3 (filed under seal); McAdams Dep. 76:17-77:16. Likewise, "when mail missed its last scheduled transportation trip ... management used overtime to finish processing [it]." USPS OIG Report No. 19XG013NO00-R20, "U.S. Postal Service's Processing Network Optimization and Service Impacts," (June 16, 2020), Defs.’ Ex. 2, ECF 125-3 at 2. Letter carriers would then "go back out and deliver...

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