The Office of General Counsel advises, assists and represents the Safety Board in support of its activities relating to transportation safety; and as sole legal advisor, has responsibility for determining legal policy for the agency. See The Independent Safety Board Act of 1974, as amended. The Designated Agency Ethics Official of the NTSB, who administers the Ethics program on behalf of the Chairman, is located in and supported by the Office of General Counsel.
No portion of a report of the Board, related to an accident or investigation of an accident, may be admitted into evidence or used in a civil action for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report. (49 U.S.C. § 1154(b)) Of course, a variety of material issued by or under the control of the Board or its employees may be of interest to private litigants and other individuals.
49 CFR 837 contains procedures to be followed when requesting material for use in legal proceedings (including administrative proceedings) in which the National Transportation Safety Board is not a party. Requests for material have been divided into two categories:
To ensure that Board employees are devoted to the investigation and study of safety issues and to ensure that the Board does not have undue influence on private litigation, particular limitations are placed on the testimony of Board employees. (49 CFR Part 835)
All requests for Board employees to testify must be addressed to the General Counsel, who approves or denies such requests. (49 CFR § 835.6)
A Board employee's testimony may be available for use in actions or suits for damages in the form of deposition testimony or responses to written interrogatories. Board employees may not appear and testify in court in such actions (49 CFR § 835.5(a)). See 49 CFR 835.5(b)-(d) for additional restrictions on depositions and testimony.
A Board employee may testify only as to the factual information they obtained in the course of an investigation. They will decline to testify regarding matters beyond the scope of their investigation and shall not give any expert or opinion testimony. (49 CFR 835.3(b))
NOTE: The most current edition of the Code of Federal Regulations can be accessed at the Government Printing Office's Federal Digital System (FDsys) website. Please refer to the FDsys website for CFR texts.