Press Release

JPL Employees to Appeal Negative Ruling by Judge

By SpaceRef Editor
October 4, 2007
Filed under ,

JPL Employees vs Caltech, NASA and Department of Commerce Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12

Contact: Robert M. Nelson, Lead Plaintiff. 818-635-5536, [email protected] For Immediate Release Oct 3, 2007

Employees at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory will file an emergency motion on Thursday to appeal a federal district court’s decision that denies them the court’s protection from excessively intrusive personal background investigations ordered by NASA for all JPL employees.

During the hearing in his Los Angeles courtroom on Monday, Judge Otis Wright said he was inclined to issue a limited temporary injunction before October 5 in the case of the 28 JPL employees who filed suit against Caltech and NASA over the detailed personal investigations associated with issuing new identification badges for access to the JPL facility. None of the 28 employees do any classified work.

Earlier Wednesday, however, Judge Wright changed his mind. Rather than issuing the temporary injunction he described in court Monday, he denied the employees’ plea for court protection. A few hours later, attorneys for the JPL employees said they would file an emergency appeal of Wright’s decision tomorrow to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Caltech has arbitrarily imposed an October 5 deadline for employees to complete a detailed personal questionnaire and to “voluntarily” sign a waiver permitting investigators to conduct open-ended probes into intimate personal background details, including sexual relationships. Employees who do not comply by will be locked out on October 27.

Hundreds of JPL employees have taken issue with the background checks. In addition to the 28 plaintiffs, more than 200 employees have signed an on-line statement stating that they completed the questionnaire under duress in order to keep their jobs. Many others are yet to comply with NASA’s requirements. As pointed out by Caltech attorney Mark Holscher in court Monday, only 4100 out of 7500 JPL employees and contractors have initiated the required paperwork.

Robert M. Nelson, lead plaintiff in the case said, “We are obviously disappointed at Judge Wright’s refusal to protect our privacy rights; however, our hopes have been raised by the appeal efforts of our attorneys.” The JPL employees are represented by Dan Stormer, Virginia Keeny and Sanjukta Paul of the firm of Hadsell and Stormer, a prominent civil rights law firm in Pasadena CA.

For comments from plaintiffs – 818-635-5536.

Attorneys available for comment after 2 PM PDT , Oct. 4, 2007 at 626-585-9600

Further information and all court documents are at the website hspd12jpl.

SpaceRef staff editor.