Are there any two American institutions more irksome to the average American than the U.S. Postal Service and City Hall? The say “you can’t fight city hall” and as for hauling the USPS into court, a colleague who's done so said he would “rather eat broken glass” than do it again.
Well the Post Office and City Hall have squared off against one another in East Cleveland, Ohio. The issue: the Post Office’s refusal to pay "two school-zone speeding citations and five red-light infractions". So what happens when the unmovable object encounters the unstoppable force? Well, their counsel write each other strongly worded letters.
Counsel for the USPS related the USPS’s mission statement and then offered a detailed postal service history lesson all building up to what she hoped was her legal knock-out punch – the Post Office has governmental immunity. She further threw down the gauntlet, dropping cites to the U.S. Constitution and United States Code, asserting that while the Post Office “requires its employees to obey all traffic law and rules” state and local traffic law “cannot be enforced as against the Postal Service.”
But City Hall, through its deputized “traffic solutions” vendor, fired back with its own “oh, no you didn’t, girl” letter. The traffic solutions’ general counsel not only cited case law showing that the USPS is not exempt from traffic laws, but that the USPS’s own safety guide notes that drivers are responsible for “citations for traffic violations.” To top things off, he drops the case of a post worker “delivering mail while naked” and being “arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior.” (Snap!) But not content with legal argument, he offers an obnoxious coupe de grace — his amended version of the Post Office creed: “Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night, nor traffic lights stays these couriers from their appointed rounds.”
Is there any wonder suing either City Hall or the Post office is a nightmare? While there is a certain schadenfreude seeing the two of them go at it, I’m reminded that your average citizen can do little when they are harmed by either one of these institutions due to sovereign immunity and/or cost-prohibitions. That’s not right. But until we rethink sovereign immunity, we’ll have to be content to sit back and watch the legal equivalent of Dracula vs. The Wolfman. Is there any way they can both lose?