Judge Orders USPS to Hand Over Documents About Louis DeJoy Conflicts of Interest

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to hand over documents related to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's potential conflicts of interest to a government watchdog group.

Senior District Judge John D. Bates issued a 20-page ruling, seen by Newsweek, ordering USPS to give the documents to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) after the postal service refused to release them under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 2020.

CREW requested the documents pertaining to DeJoy's potential conflicts of interest and USPS identified seven documents that fit the criteria but refused to release citing exemptions under the FOIA.

The watchdog group sued and on Wednesday Bates sided with CREW, ruling that USPS had improperly invoked two FOIA exemptions.

USPS has invoked Exemption Three—designed to prevent the disclosure of commercial information such as trade secrets—and Exemption Five, which is meant to prevent the disclosure of material that is protected by "attorney-client and/or deliberative process privileges."

USPS also argued that disclosing the financial information of its officers could make it difficult to recruit qualified people to work there.

Bates wrote: "The requested materials were only generated because of the ethical rules applicable to federal employment and are not the type of commercial information the PRA [Public Records Act] seeks to protect."

"Moreover, USPS fails to substantiate its assertions with any evidence or even conjecture as to how a competitor could exploit the requested documents to USPS's detriment. And the Court is skeptical whether qualified candidates would be deterred from seeking employment with USPS if the requested materials were made public," the judge wrote.

Bates also said that no attorney-client privilege existed when DeJoy speaks with ethics attorneys at a government agency "because the 'client' for privilege purposes in that dynamic is the agency itself."

"Without establishing a plausible attorney-client relationship between DeJoy and ethics counsel or accounting for the high likelihood of third-party disclosure of the documents at issue, USPS cannot invoke the attorney-client privilege to shield any of the requested documents under FOIA Exemption 5," Bates wrote.

Four of the requested documents pertain to request for a certificate of divestiture from the postmaster general and the other three are about DeJoy's recusal from matters where he may have a conflict of interest.

A spokesperson for USPS told Newsweek on Wednesday: "We are evaluating the decision and considering our avenues for appeal."

In a statement on their website, CREW explained the reasoning behind their requests: "Over the past seven years, the USPS has reportedly paid approximately $286 million to XPO Logistics, DeJoy's ex-employer, and has 'ramped up its business' with the company since DeJoy's appointment as Postmaster General.

"After his appointment, DeJoy continued to hold financial interests in XPO totaling between $30 and $75 million. DeJoy also held a significant amount of stock in Amazon, a major USPS competitor," the statement said.

"This is a big win not just for CREW, but for transparency advocates everywhere," said CREW Communications Director Jordan Libowitz. "DeJoy's decision making as postmaster general has raised some serious ethical questions—now we should finally get some answers."

DeJoy was appointed postmaster general by the Board of USPS—all appointed by former President Donald Trump—in June 2020 and has so far remained in post under President Joe Biden.

Postmaster General DeJoy Attends House Committee
United States Postmaster General Louis DeJoy looks on during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on legislative proposals to put the U.S. Postal Service on a sustainable financial footing on February 24, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. A judge has ruled USPS must hand over documents to a watchdog group pertaining to DeJoy's potential conflicts of interest. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images