Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of JPL Employees Regarding Intrusive Background Investigations

Press Release From:
Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2009

image Contacts:

Robert M. Nelson, Lead Plaintiff. 818-635-5536,

Virginia Keeny and Dan Stormer, Attorneys, 626-585-9600

For Immediate Release

Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the federal government and in favor of employees at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the matter of Homeland Security Presidential Directive #12 (Nelson et al. vs NASA). Today's ruling denied a motion from the Department of Justice for an en banc hearing (a hearing before a large panel of the Ninth Circuit) on the question of overturning an injunction issued last year against NASA and the California Institute of Technology by a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit. The earlier ruling was unanimous in favor of the JPL employees. Today's vote of all the judges of the Ninth Circuit, in denying this appeal, was described as "not close".

Four judges of the Ninth Circuit minority who supported the government's request filed written opinions. Seven judges, speaking for the majority of the judges on the full Ninth Circuit, issued a written response. All the judges of the Ninth Circuit had an option to voice their concern in this matter but these written opinions are all that ensue from this case.

The federal government has sixty days to appeal this matter to the United States Supreme Court. This decision to appeal will be made by the Attorney General, Eric Holder.

One of the matters of considerable interest to the judges in this case pertained to the demand by Caltech that every JPL employee 'voluntarily' agree to submit to an open ended background investigation, conducted by unknown investigators, in order to receive an identification badge that was compliant with HSPD#12. The government argued that there were no limits to the extent of the investigation. If an employee refused to 'volunteer', Caltech would terminate the employee. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

All documents relevant to this case are posted at

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