The Office of the General Counsel (GC) advises, assists, and represents the National Transportation Safety Board in support of its activities. As the legal advisor to the NTSB, it has responsibility for determining legal policy for the agency.
The GC provides responsive legal support to NTSB programs and activities to ensure the effective and efficient operation of the NTSB under Federal law and regulation. The GC ensures NTSB activities are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and enforces the statutory prohibitions against the use of certain NTSB products in civil litigation. It also ensures the independence of the NTSB's investigation process by preventing outside organizations and individuals from imposing unjustified demands on investigative personnel's time.
The Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO) administers the NTSB Ethics Program under the Ethics in Government Act and Standards of Conduct on behalf of the NTSB Chair. The NTSB Ethics Officials in the Office of General Counsel manage and oversee the financial disclosure report program, training, and provision of advice.
Requests for Board Information for Legal Proceedings
No portion of a Board report , 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 Part 837 contains procedures to be followed when requesting material for use in legal proceedings (including administrative proceedings) in which the NTSB is not a party. Requests for material have been divided into two categories:
- Requests for material contained in the NTSB's official public docket or its computerized database (see 49 CFR Part 801 for the types of documents routinely issued by the Board) are directed to the Records Management Division (49 CFR § 837.3)
- Requests for production of other materials in response to a demand of a private litigant, court or other authority should be directed to the Office of the General Counsel. (49 CFR § 837.4)
Testimony of Board Employees
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))
Regulations Relating to NTSB Operations
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.
49 U.S.C. § 1133
- Rules of Practice in Air Safety Proceedings: 49 CFR Part 821
- Rules of Procedure for Merchant Marine from Decisions of the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard: 49 CFR Part 825
- Memorandum of Understanding between the NTSB and the USCG regarding Marine Casualty Investigations
- Memorandum of Agreement between the NTSB and FAA concerning Commercial Space Mishap Investigations
- Rules Implementing the Equal Access to Justice Act of 1980: 49 CFR Part 826
- Organization and Functions of the Board and Delegations of Authority: 49 CFR Part 800
- Public Availability of Information: 49 CFR Part 801
- Notification and Reporting of Aircraft Accidents or Incidents and Overdue Aircraft, and Preservation of Aircraft Wreckage, Mail Cargo, and Records: 49 CFR Part 830
- Accident/Incident Investigation Procedures: 49 CFR Part 831
- Testimony of Board Employees: 49 CFR Part 835
- Production of Records in Legal Proceedings: 49 CFR Part 837
- Rules of Practice in Transportation; Accident/Incident Hearings and Reports: 49 CFR Part 845
- NTSB is considered a "Public Health Authority" for purposes of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). See specifically
64 FR 59956, Nov. 3, 1999 and 45 CFR § 164.512(b)(1)(i)
Regulations Relating to Ethics Program
- Standards of Conduct: 5 CFR Part 2635
- Financial Disclosure Reports: 5 CFR Part 2634
- Post-employment Restrictions: 5 CFR Part 2641
- OGE Form 201: Request to Inspect or Receive Copies of Executive Branch Personnel Public Financial Disclosure Reports or Other Covered Records
Ethics team listing:
- Kathleen Silbaugh, Designated Agency Ethics Official (DAEO)
- Vacant, Assistant Designated Agency Ethics Official (ADAEO)
- Krishawn Graham, Assistant Ethics Official
- Ambery Bowman-Smith, Administrative Officer