ANGELES, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- A federal appellate court ruled on Friday
that scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) will not have
to undergo federal background checks until a judge rules on their
The preliminary injunction
granted by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a lower court
ruling which dismissed the scientists' lawsuit against NASA and the
California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
In a decision
written by Judge Kim Wardlaw, the court ruled that the JPL employees
"demonstrated serious questions as to certain of their claims on which
they are likely to succeed on the merits and the balance of hardships
tip sharply in their favor."
decided that U.S. District Judge Otis Wright erred when he ruled on
Thursday that the JPL employees were unlikely to suffer harm from not
agreeing to the checks. Wright said in the ruling that the scientists
failed to show any constitutional violations on the part of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Los Angeles because it
is a private -- not a government -- entity.
At issue is a
2004 executive order signed by President George W. Bush requiring
federal agencies and facilities to institute an identification badge
plaintiffs -- all long-term Caltech employees -- allege the Bush
administration is requiring them to consent to broad written waivers
permitting investigators to obtain records from their past employment
would also be allowed to question the employees' friends and associates
about their emotional and financial well-being, as well as their sexual
histories, the plaintiffs claim.
decision, Wardlaw wrote that the plaintiffs "face a stark choice --
either violation of their constitutional rights or loss of their jobs."
there was a sufficient relationship between the university and the
federal government to warrant that CalTech remain a defendant in the
Caltech manages JPL for NASA, the nation's space agency.
Veronica McGregor noted that although JPL and CalTech were dismissed as
defendants by Wright, "We intend to abide by the (appellate) courts'
decisions in this matter".
Dan Stormer, an attorney for the JPL employees, hailed the court 's decision.
"It is a complete victory for us," he said. ``We couldn't be happier."
accused the Bush administration of "using the word í«terrorism' as this
talisman that could override constitutional protections."
a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which is handling the
case for the Commerce Department, which is also a defendant, said their
attorneys were reviewing the court's decision.
Representatives for NASA, which is the third defendant, were not immediately available for comment.