What’s the new (mailbox) rule?

September 23, 2011

Given the financial struggles of our Post Office … will the legal community’s presumption of reliability of the postal service continue to be prudent?

It has been in the news for some time now that the United States Postal Office (USPO) is struggling to stay afloat. Given the financial struggles of our Post Office and the imminent likelihood of thousands of jobs being eliminated, will the legal community’s presumption of reliability of the postal service continue to be prudent? Or are we going to have to update some of these well grounded legal principles?

My concern with the struggles of the USPO is that both statutory and common law place a great deal of faith in the reliability of the postal service and many of our legal rights, obligations, and procedural rules are based on a presumption of reliability of the postal service. A Connecticut court held that, “'[the] mailbox rule,’ a general principle of contract law, provides that a properly stamped and addressed letter that is placed into a mailbox or handed over to the United States Postal Service raises a rebuttable presumption that it will be received.” Butts v. Bysiewicz, 5 A.3d 932.  In a recent Western District of Pennsylvania case, “The Court notes that under the common-law mailbox rule, ‘[i]f a document is properly mailed, the court will presume the United States Postal Service delivered the document to the addressee in the usual time,” i.e., three business days. In another case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated that, “Section 7502 of the Internal Revenue Code and its accompanying regulation 26 C.F.R. § 301.7502-1(a) provide that if the envelope containing the petition has a United States Post Office postmark date which falls within the ninety-day period, the petition is deemed timely filed, even if actually received after that period.” Marquardt v. C.I.R., 9 F.3d 1552. In another case the Tenth Circuit stated that, “[m]ark of private delivery service would not be treated as United States Postmark, when determining whether taxpayer’s petition for redetermination of income tax deficiencies was timely, where petition had been mailed via certified mail.” Gibson v. C.I.R., 264 Fed.Appx. 760. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure also rely on the USPO. A District of Colorado Court held that, “Service by mail is proper and is deemed completed upon mailing. Rule 5(b), Fed.R.Civ.P.”, Lash v. City of Trinidad, 2006 WL 3054305.

From a research perspective, you may find the following Westlaw Next searches useful:

Content set: All states and all federal, MAIL-BOX-RULE /S U.S. UNITED-STATES /5 POST!

USCA: SD(U.S. UNITED-STATES /2 MAIL! POST-BOX POST-OFFICE POSTAL)

News: DA(after 8/2011) & (U.S. UNITED-STATES /2 POST!) U.S.P.O. /50 STRUGG! DEFAUL! BANKRUPT! AFLOAT LAY-OFF (ELIMINAT! /5 JOB POSITION)

Other References

KeyNumbers:  Topic 378 is time.  Mailbox Rule Keynumber is 378k8.5.  Sundays and Nonjudicial Days is 378k10.

The US-RULESCOMM database contains documents released by the five advisory committees to the Judicial Conference of the United States.  Try these Westclips

(U.S. UNITED-STATES /5 POST! MAIL) U.S.P.O. or

(U.S. UNITED-STATES /5 POST! MAIL) (U.P.S. /5 MAIL! PARCEL) (PRIVAT! /7 MAIL COURIER PARCEL) U.S.P.O. FEDERAL-EXPRESS UNITED-PARCEL-SERVICE GLOBAL-MAIL AIRBORNE