CDA Trumps Postal Act's Grant of District Court Jurisdiction

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a district court's dismissal of a contract claim for lack of jurisdiction because the Contract Disputes Act of 1978 bars breach and "essentially contractual" claims against the United States Postal Service in district courts. The contractor --a real estate developer --sought damages under theories of breach of contract and promissory estoppel after the USPS rescinded approved building projects. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, reaffirming its holding in Spodek v. U.S. (42 CCF 77,406). On appeal, the contractor argued the Postal Reorganization Act gave district courts "original but not exclusive jurisdiction over all actions" against the USPS (39 USC 409(a)).

Jurisdictional Bar

The Third Circuit noted the 2006 CDA amendments created ambiguity as to whether the CDA applied to the USPS by removing the USPS from the definition of "executive agency." However, a literal reading of Section 410(a) of the PRA permits the USPS to adopt the CDA through its own regulations, which the USPS did in 39 CFR 601. Although the decisions of other appellate courts did not analyze the relationship between Section 409(a) of the PRA and the CDA and were therefore not directly on point, they did provide persuasive reasons why the CDA overrode the jurisdictional grant in Section 409(a). The CDA's provisions were more recent and more specific, the exclusions from coverage did not list contracts with the USPS, and the CDA's policy was to collect contract disputes in forums with the requisite expertise. (Anselma Crossing, L.P. v. U.S. Postal Service, CA-3, 55 CCF 79,537)




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