Today we had the hearing, with Judge Patti Sarris presiding. She’s the most senior judge at the Federal Courthouse in Boston.
We got to see a small glimpse into the USPS’ defense: Apparently in 2013 a family in Hawaii tried to get a state-level harassment prevention order filed against USPS carrier Clifton Sato. They claimed that he yelled at them, invaded their personal space, and threatened violence. They previously filed a police report. Like Heather’s situation, the order was removed. The justification was: “Sato is immune from suit under the Supremacy Clause for acts performed during the exercise of his federal duties in delivering the mail.” The family didn’t pursue the matter when it got removed to Federal Court and it got dismissed.
So the crux of their argument is: Even if Al Hodgkins did these things to Heather while in uniform and on the clock as a Federal employee, he’s immune to being held legally accountable for his actions.
Judge Saris did not like this at all. She posed the hypothetical situation to US Attorney Weida: “If Al came to our home to deliver mail, knocked on the door, and then punched Heather in the face when she answered, what is her legal remedy?”
Weida could not answer.
Heather and I quickly realized that there is a serious problem here. Any mail carrier can do whatever they want to a private citizen while on the job, and they can’t be touched due to the Supremacy Clause.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that that there are over 300,000 mail carriers. Total reports violent crime was measured at 372 per 100,000 people in the US in the year of 2015. This means that statisically, assuming that mail carriers are representative of the total US population, there can be 1,000 instances of violent crime annually related to the USPS. Private citizens need to be afforded protection from abuse of privilege and authority. We can’t just dismiss this matter just because Al Hodgkins and Sharon Demirdjian works for the USPS rather than UPS or Fedex. They need to be held accountable.
Anyway, Saris didn’t accept that for an answer, and we have a court date in Spring of 2018. Weida is to give us notice if either Al or Sharon are to serve near our house. That hopefully should provide us peace before we appear again for trial.