DeJoy and Trump lose a third time in federal court as Postal Service works to undo sabotage
For the third time in a matter of weeks, a federal court has warned that the sabotage at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) at the hands of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is politically motivated and aimed at crippling the USPS' work in helping secure a free and fair election. U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington, D.C., ordered DeJoy to halt implementing the changes that have resulted in mail delivery delays nationwide. His is the third such ruling. A fourth case was heard last week in Pennsylvania.
At this point, DeJoy is enjoined from continuing his "trucks on time" delivery restrictions that have upended the system, leaving mail behind for days and sometimes weeks and resulting in empty trucks leaving distribution centers when they couldn't be loaded according to schedule. He has been ordered to stop removing mail sorting machines and collection boxes now by three courts, and by all accounts has halted these operational changes. This is as clear a demonstration of why the independent courts are so vital to the nation as you're going to get, because every judge who has intervened has called out the blatant politicization of the institution by Trump and DeJoy. "It is clearly in the public interest to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, to ensure safe alternatives to in-person voting, and to require that the USPS comply with the law," Sullivan wrote.
That follows a ruling in New York last week in which a federal judge blasted DeJoy, Postal Service leadership, and Donald Trump. "They have not provided trusted assurance and comfort that citizens will be able to cast ballots with full confidence that their votes would be timely collected and counted," Judge Victor Marrero wrote. "The right to vote is too vital a value in our democracy to be left in a state of suspense in the minds of voters weeks before a presidential election, raising doubts as to whether their votes will ultimately be counted," Marrero said in his opinion.
Judge Stanley Bastian in Washington State was even more pointed. DeJoy and Trump, he wrote, are "involved in a politically motivated attack on the efficiency of the Postal Service" and said "this attack on the Postal Service is likely to irreparably harm the states' ability to administer the 2020 general election." In his injunction, Bastian wrote "at the heart of DeJoy's and the Postal Service's actions is voter disenfranchisement," citing Trump's statements about withholding funds from the USPS and "the actual impact of the changes on primary elections that resulted in uncounted ballots." He continued that it appeared the changes were "an intentional effort on the part of the current administration to disrupt and challenge the legitimacy of upcoming local, state and federal elections."
The various orders have stopped DeJoy from pushing his leave-mail-behind policy, from decommissioning machines, and required that he preapprove overtime and extra trips for the two weeks around the election as necessary to get all ballots delivered. Election mail also has to be prioritized as first-class. The Postal Service and 19 states are in settlement talks to resolve all the cases from Washington State, New York, and Pennsylvania.
The judges in the Washington State and New York cases, and now in Washington, D.C., have handed down injunctions halting DeJoy from acting further. Judge Gerald A. McHugh Jr. of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania hasn't yet ruled on a separate case brought by Pennsylvania Attorney General Joshua Shapiro. This settlement will bind the USPS to an agreement and "act as a firewall against challenges from President Trump on the legitimacy of mail-in votes by recognizing the states' authority to preside over elections and how ballots are processed," sources involved in the negotiations told The Washington Post.
As of Friday, the states and the Justice Department, which is representing the USPS, had agreed to most of the elements of the injunctions, including ending enforcement of DeJoy's transportation schedule and the decommissioning of machines. According to the Post, they had not agreed to an overtime policy as of Friday and were still discussing the issue. Sullivan's decision and injunction could help bring more weight to the state's side on this point as well. In filings from the USPS, however, before Sullivan's Sunday ruling, the Justice Department said that the agency had told managers not to reduce overtime, cut retail hours, close processing facilities, or remove equipment.
The USPS has also said that it will treat all election mail as first-class priority whether or not it's paid as first-class, and that it will make sure that any extra processes, delivery schedules, and collection trips necessary to get election mail in on time are allowed. There's a matter of oversight and enforcement to consider, but since their work is so public and has been under such scrutiny, it will be obvious if they're not fulfilling these obligations. Clearly, the courts are ready to do what's necessary to make the Postal Service operate.Monday, Sep 28, 2020 · 1:48:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time · Joan McCarter
Make it four out of four—Pennsylvania Judge Gerald McHugh joined his colleagues in stopping the USPS's changes, writing "irreparable harm will result" in the election, and to the agency in general if they are not halted.