Appeals Court Favors NASA JPL Employees
By Alice Turner
12:54, January 12th 2008
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Appeals Court Favors NASA JPL Employees

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Los Angeles awarded a temporary injunction against Caltech and NASA over intrusive background investigations on their low-risk employees. The injunction will remain in effect for the entire duration of the District Court proceedings.

The three-judge panel has decided that the investigations threaten the constitutional rights of workers, is not grounded in law, and is not narrowly tailored to a legitimate need.

"We're ecstatic," workers' attorney Dan Stormer said. "This represents a vindication of constitutional protections that all of us are entitled to. It prevents the government from conducting needless searches into backgrounds."

The employees are being represented by the Hadsell & Stormer legal team. Caltech tried to force employees into cooperating by terminating those not complying with the rebadging requirement. Under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, all government agencies were ordered to step up security by issuing new identification badges. The next hearing has been scheduled for 2pm on February 15, 2008.

Appellants have raised serious questions as to the merits of their informational privacy and APA claims, and the balance of hardships tips sharply in their favor. The district court’s denial of the preliminary injunction was based on errors of law and hence was an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, we reverse and remand with instructions to fashion preliminary injunctive relief consistent with this opinion, the Court wrote in its final paragraph.

The Caltech JPL employees "face a stark choice - either violation of their constitutional rights or loss of their jobs," Judge Kim Wardlaw said in Friday's 3-0 ruling.

Managed by the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) builds and operates unmanned spacecraft for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Among their current projects are the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The high-tech research facility dates back to the 1930s, when Caltech professor Theodore von Kármán began running rocket propulsion experiments there.



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Tags: Caltech, NASA, JPL
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