Postmaster General Louis DeJoy removes his face mask as he testifies before Congress last August.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy removes his face mask as he testifies before Congress last August. AP file photo

USPS Drops Appeals but Pledges to Fight for DeJoy’s Reforms

Postmaster general digs in as Biden faces pressure to remove him.

The U.S. Postal Service has hit the brakes in its legal fight to maintain changes that led to slower mail delivery, effectively allowing injunctions blocking those reforms to remain in place. 

USPS has ended its appeals of preliminary losses in a series of lawsuits, though the mailing agency will keep up its fight through the normal litigation process. The lawsuits across the country followed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s efforts to overhaul operations in moves he said would lead to quicker and more efficient deliveries, but which ultimately had the opposite effect. 

Dozens of states, federal lawmakers and advocacy groups succeeded in their legal efforts to block those changes in the run up to the election. Various judges blocked DeJoy’s initiative to cut back on late and early mail transportation trips, which he said were costly and unnecessary, as well as efforts to decommission mail processing equipment and blue collection boxes. They also enjoined USPS from slashing overtime. The operational changes had led to widespread mail delays, which continued through the election despite largely successful efforts to expedite ballot delivery. While the judges’ orders primarily focused on postal operations prior to and in the immediate aftermath of the election, they have yet to lift their injunctions.

The Postal Service initially launched appeals following the election to remove the orders, but in recent days has ceased those efforts. Despite that move—which will allow the injunctions to remain in place—USPS said it still plans to defend its actions in court. 

“While we do not intend to comment about our litigation strategy, the decision not to pursue appeals at this preliminary stage of the litigation does not change our view that none of the election mail lawsuits were justified by the facts or supported by the applicable law,” said Dave Partenheimer, a USPS spokesman. “These cases will continue, including in the courts of appeals if necessary, and we will continue to defend the integrity and credibility of our leadership and workforce, and the collective allegiance of our entire organization to our non-partisan service mission.”

Allison Zieve, who represented Public Citizen in a lawsuit against USPS brought by that group and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, noted in her case the injunction will continue to block DeJoy’s changes to transportation operations. DeJoy had said he would reinstitute his reforms—which ultimately led to postal workers leaving mail behind so they could adhere to preset delivery schedules—after the election, but he will now be blocked from doing so. 

Going forward, Zieve said, with the immediate scramble to ensure delivery of mailed ballots passed, her team can now pursue a “more typical litigation plan.” That will mean discovery and requests for summary judgment. As Partenheimer explained, USPS is not ruling out once again taking its case to the appellate circuit if the district judges rule against it. Zieve noted the judge in the NAACP and Public Citizen case has also left open the possibility of holding DeJoy in contempt of court for failing to follow his orders in the run up to the election. 

DeJoy—who prior to his current job helped raise millions of dollars for Trump and the Republican Party—is also facing heat as a growing chorus of left-leaning lawmakers and advocacy groups have called on Biden to make changes that could lead to the postmaster general’s ouster. By law, the Postal Service’s top executive is selected by its board of governors, meaning Biden likely cannot fire DeJoy directly. He could, however, remove the current board members for cause—perhaps citing nationwide mail delays not seen in more than a decade—and nominate replacements more aligned with his vision for the mailing agency. Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., wrote to Biden on Monday asking him to do exactly that, saying USPS is “teetering on the brink of destruction” under current leadership. 

Biden may instead opt to fill the four vacant positions, the path he vowed to follow during his campaign. Such a move would give Democrats a majority on the panel, as his nominees, if confirmed by the Senate, would join the Trump-nominated four Republicans and one Democrat currently serving. Biden has blasted Trump’s handling of postal issues, saying the former president “attacked” USPS and flirted with privatizing it. Biden vowed to put the Postal Service on firmer financial footing, help postal employees join unions and and defend the agency’s obligation to deliver to every address in the country, but never promised to seek to remove DeJoy. In one sign of his desire to turn USPS in a new direction, Biden has replaced Robert Taub, a Republican, as chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission, with Michael Kubayanda, a Democrat. 

Asked about possibly ousting the postmaster general, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that “we all love the mailman and mailwoman” but she was “not aware of anything” regarding DeJoy’s position. For his part, DeJoy has said he would reinstitute his previously blocked reforms this year and promised to “modernize retail and processing operations” as part of a new strategic plan USPS will release in the coming months.