The United States Postal Service might not be the most legally dubious of institutions, but the actions of one of its lawyers may have more than a few of its patrons going postal.
Apparently, the city of East Cleveland, Ohio has a particularly large problem with its Postal Service drivers — specifically, that those drivers are less than model citizens when it comes to traffic laws. In fact, the drivers in question have reportedly racked up more than $700 in traffic tickets. So when the city of East Cleveland came to collect, you would think the Postal Service would pony up without complaints.
Enter Jennifer Breslin, a lawyer with the USPS, who sent the following letter to the city of East Cleveland as a response. The gist of it? “We don’t have to pay you anything because your laws don’t apply to us.”
Yahoo News reports on the response:
“In providing mail service across the country, the Postal Service attempts to work within local and state laws and regulations, when feasible,” wrote Breslin, after reminding “To Whom It May Concern” that postal workers promptly deliver over 200 billion pieces of mail annually.
“However, as you are probably aware, the Postal Service enjoys federal immunity from state and local regulation,” she continued.
That last bit did not go over well with American Traffic Solutions (ATS), the Arizona-based company that enforces East Cleveland’s camera citations.
“By attempting to hide behind an immunity claim, you are aiding and abetting your drivers in their blatant disregard for the traffic laws in East Cleveland, which have endangered other drivers, pedestrians and school children,” ATS attorney George Hittner wrote in his three-page response to Breslin, who received it on Thursday. (He also cc’d the postmaster general, two U.S. representatives and two senators.)
Hittner cited the Postal Service’s own safety manual and case law to point out that postal truck drivers should and have been held accountable. He also gave a few examples where the driving habits of carriers resulted in well-publicized legal consequences.
You can read Hittner’s full response to Breslin here.
Needless to say, Breslin’s original assertion carries dubious weight. Fortunately, Hittner’s response manages to point out the reason for its being ridiculed quite capably in its second paragraph.
“To begin, we must admit our surprise upon reading your letter,” Hittner begins. “Please understand that as a photo traffic safety company we have grown accustomed to receiving letters from citizens and entities asserting traffic laws do not apply to them.”
“However,” Hittner continues, “we never expected to receive such a letter from the USPS.”
And for those who are wondering what the basis for Breslin’s claim is, the answer may provoke yet more derision. The reason the USPS is allegedly immune to local traffic laws is, according to one of its own lawyers, executive privilege.