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MAIL ORDER ASSN. OF AMERICA v. USPS

March 28, 1988

Mail Order Association of America, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
United States Postal Service, Defendant


Charles R. Richey, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

Introduction

 In this suit, plaintiffs challenge the legality of defendant's decision to adopt a postal rate increase effective April 3, 1988. Plaintiffs do not challenge the size of the rate increase or the methods by which it was adopted. Plaintiffs only challenge the legality of the effective date of the increase.

 Plaintiffs ask for temporary and permanent injunctive relief. Due to extreme exigencies of time, the Court, by consent of the parties, combined a hearing on plaintiffs' applications for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction with a hearing on the merits of plaintiffs' action. Defendant has moved to dismiss this action and advanced its arguments in favor of dismissal at the hearing. After thoroughly considering the points raised at oral argument, the very helpful briefs submitted by the parties, and the underlying law, the Court must conclude that it does not have jurisdiction over this action, will grant defendant's motion to dismiss, and, accordingly, will deny plaintiffs' applications for relief.

 Background

 The Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, codified at 39 U.S.C. § 101 et seq., established the statutory framework governing this case. That Act created a quasi-independent Postal Service run by a Board of Governors composed of the Postmaster General, the Deputy Postmaster General, and nine "Governors" appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Id. at § 202.

 The Act also created a Postal Rate Commission, which is charged with recommending any changes in postal rates or fees. Id. at § 3622. Upon a request from the Postal Service, the Postal Rate Commission conducts extensive hearings into the necessity and advisability of the proposed rate change. Id. at § 3624(a). In most cases, the Commission must transmit its recommendation, including a written explanation of the appropriateness of the rate increase in light of specific statutory criteria, see id. at § 3622(b), to the Governors within ten months after the Postal Service's request. Id. at § 3624(c)(1).

 Upon receiving the Commission's recommendation, the Governors may "approve, allow under protest, reject, or modify" the Commission's decision. Id. at § 3625(a) - (e). The statute further specifies that the Board determines the effective date of the changes. Id. at § 3625(f).

 The Rate Commission heard from more than one hundred witnesses, some of whom contested the legality of a rate increase that would take effect on a date prior to the start of the "test year." Nonetheless, on March 28, 1988, the Board of Governors issued a resolution determining that most of the changes recommended by the Commission would go into effect on April 3, 1988, even earlier than the originally contemplated June 4 date. On March 28, the Governors of the Postal Service issued a decision approving the Commission's recommendations and also issued an order, in accordance with the Board's determination, making those changes effective April 3, 1988, at 12:01 a.m.

 Plaintiffs thereupon filed this suit. They do not challenge the general concept of a rate increase taking effect prior to the start of the test year; rather, they challenge the specific April 3 effective date, which they argue bears no relation to the evidence presented before the Commission. They ask the Court to declare the Postal Service's implementation of the proposed rate increase prior to June 4, 1988 illegal; they also ask the Court to enjoin defendants from implementing the proposed increase prior to the originally proposed June 4, 1988, date.

 THE COURT DOES NOT HAVE JURISDICTION OVER THIS SUIT.

 Chapter 36 of Title 39 of the United States Code incorporates the Postal Reorganization Act's sections on "postal rates, classes, and services," and it is this chapter that establishes the procedures through which rate increases are recommended and implemented. This chapter is not silent on the matter of judicial review. Section 3628 states:

 
A decision of the Governors to approve, allow under protest, or modify the recommended decision of the Postal Rate Commission may be appealed to any court of appeals of the United States, within 15 days after its publication by the Public Printer, by an aggrieved party who appeared in the proceedings under section 3624(a) of this title. . . . The court may not suspend the effectiveness of the changes, or otherwise prevent them from taking effect until final disposition of the suit by the court. No court shall ...

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