Pilot Loses Supreme Court Case

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It was wrong for the Social Security Administration to give confidential medical information about a pilot to the FAA, but that pilot can't sue the government for emotional distress, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently. In a 5-to-3 decision (PDF) issued on March 28, the justices overturned a ruling by a California court and said the government could be held liable only for financial damages such as losses and expenses. The dissenting justices wrote that the majority view makes it too easy for the government to go ahead and invade individual privacy without consequences. "That is not the result Congress intended when it enacted an Act with the express purpose of safeguarding individual privacy against Government invasion," wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

On another issue where pilots' rights conflict with FAA authority, AOPA said this week the FAA should be required to disclose its evidence when seeking to suspend or revoke a pilot certificate, and if it fails to do so, the NTSB should be able to dismiss or delay the FAA's action. "It is a matter of fairness that an airman knows what evidence the FAA is using to take action," AOPA said. A proposed rule that would require the FAA to disclose portions of its enforcement investigative reports to pilots targeted for emergency certificate revocation also should be applied to nonemergency cases, said AOPA counsel Kathleen Yodice.