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Postal Rates Hang in the Balance: DC Circuit Court of Appeals Hears Case

On Monday September 13, the Federal DC Circuit hosted a 3-way argument over whether the August 29 rate increases will stand. The rate increases were the product of new rate-making authority claimed by the Postal Regulatory Commission following its review of the existing statutory rate regime.  This “ten year” review was ordered by statute. In short, the Mailers (all were lumped together) argued the PRC was not legally entitled, the PRC argued it was, and USPS (true to form) argued the PRC was legally obligated to do more for them.

The DC Circuit is distinguished from the other Federal Circuit Courts in that it directly hears appeals of “final agency decisions” from most corners of the federal government. One consequence is the Circuit’s judges are both long-serving and extremely well-schooled in the fine legal distinctions involved in examining congressional intent and the limits of the authority conferred by statute (such as the PRC’s “final decision” in granting new rate-making options to USPS).

We listened to the entire argument archived on the Court’s website (find it here). Our conclusion: the argument went for 75 minutes and offered up few, if any, clues about how the judges are inclined. But, they did make it quite clear that, however arcane the legal arguments, they understood their decision would be a very big deal for mailers and for USPS. One would hope, therefore, they would be moved to render a reasonably prompt decision (especially if we win).

It was somewhat encouraging to hear the extensive knowledge and preparation on the part of all three judges, something that can’t be presumed even at this lofty level of the judiciary. And each of the three lawyers lived up to the expectation they would be experienced, knowledgeable, and adept at appellate performing arts. We can, therefore, at least be confident Mailers will not get short-shrift.

Beyond that, we took considerable pleasure (especially those of us with daughters) in noting three of the six principals were women (one judge, two lawyers). The lawyer for Mailers, Ayesha Khan, was truly outstanding and had numerous, finely-tuned exchange with the judges (look her up if you want to see a startling resume). Our team couldn’t have done better. Obviously, we will keep you apprised of further developments.

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