United States Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations

PETITIONER: United States Postal Service
RESPONDENT: Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations
LOCATION: Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club

DOCKET NO.: 80-608
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 453 US 114 (1981)
ARGUED: Apr 21, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1981

Edwin S. Kneedler - on behalf of the Appellant
Jon H. Hammer - on behalf of the Appellees

Facts of the case


Media for United States Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 21, 1981 in United States Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments first this morning in United States Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Associations.

Mr. Kneedler, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Edwin S. Kneedler:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is here on direct appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

That court held unconstitutional as applied to appellees an act of Congress governing the deposit of materials into letter boxes used by the Postal Service for the delivery of United States mail.

The statutory provision involved is Section 1725 of Title 18, United States Code.

That section prohibits the knowing and willful deposit of any mailable matter on which postage has not been paid into a letter box that has been established by the Postal Service or has been accepted or approved by the Postal Service for the receipt or delivery of mail along any mail route.

William H. Rehnquist:

And that's true even though the box is privately owned?

Edwin S. Kneedler:

That is correct, Justice Rehnquist.

Potter Stewart:

The box is privately owned, isn't it?

Edwin S. Kneedler:

Well, in general, the boxes are furnished by the mail customer but the Postal Service regulations require the furnishing of an appropriate receptacle for the receipt of mail as a condition to the delivery of mail--

Potter Stewart:

At the customer's expense?

Edwin S. Kneedler:

--At the customer's expense.

There are circumstances, I am informed by the Postal Service, in which the Postal Service itself will construct letter boxes.

This is a program of relatively recent origin.

It occurs particularly in new subdivisions where the builder has perhaps neglected to put in what are called cluster boxes, which are groups of boxes at the end of the block to serve all the houses up the block.

Potter Stewart:

And who pays for those?

Edwin S. Kneedler:

The Postal Service will pay for those letter boxes because there occasionally have been disputes as to whether the builder or the homeowners or whoever--

Thurgood Marshall:

And the Postal Service has the keys?

Edwin S. Kneedler:

--The Postal Service has the keys; that's correct.

Thurgood Marshall:

And the owner does not have the keys?

Edwin S. Kneedler:

Excuse me?

Thurgood Marshall:

The owner does not have a key to the back of it.

He only has a key for the door.

Edwin S. Kneedler:


The owner would... the person to whom the mailbox pertains would only have a key to his own individual piece of the box.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And these cluster boxes have to be lockable, do they not?

Edwin S. Kneedler:

That's correct.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

There has to be a key on them?

It can't be one that you just pull open?