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Jones v. Rossides

March 30, 2009

JOSEPH JONES, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GALE ROSSIDES, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR OF THE TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Four security officers employed by the Transportation Security Administration ("TSA") and the unions to which they belong bring this action against Gale Rossides in her official capacity as Acting Administrator of the TSA and Janet Napolitano in her official capacity as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"). Plaintiffs allege that personal and financial information of TSA security officers were compromised when a computer hard drive storing this information went missing from TSA headquarters. They further allege that Defendants violated the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a et seq. ("Privacy Act"), by failing to employ proper "safeguards to insure the security and confidentiality of records and to protect against any anticipated threats or hazards to their security or integrity which could result in substantial harm, embarrassment, inconvenience, or unfairness to any individual on whom information is maintained." Id. at § 552a(e)(10).

Before the court is Plaintiffs' motion for class certification [#15]. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the court concludes that the motion must be denied.

I.

The essential facts of this case are set forth in this court's prior memorandum opinion which set forth the court's reasons for granting in part and denying in part Defendants' motion to dismiss:

On May 3, 2007, TSA discovered that a hard drive was missing from a controlled area at the TSA Headquarters Office of Human Capital. The hard drive contained personnel data for approximately 100,000 individuals employed by TSA between January 2002 and August 2005, including names, social security numbers, birth dates, payroll information, financial allotments, and bank account and routing information. On May 4, 2007, [then] Administrator Kip Hawley issued a broadcast email to all TSA employees providing notice of the incident and stating that TSA would provide employees with free credit monitoring for one year free of charge.

***

On May 8, 2007, four TSA security officers . . . and their unions . . . filed this class action complaint, alleging that defendants violated [the Aviation and Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. §§ 44901 and 44935 ("ATSA")] and the Privacy Act by failing to ensure the security of the missing hard drive.

Am. Fed'n of Gov't Employees v. Hawley, 543 F. Supp. 2d 44, 45-46 (D.D.C. 2008) (internal citations omitted) ("Jones I"). The court dismissed Plaintiffs' ATSA claims, id. at 46-48, as well as their claims for injunctive and declaratory relief under the Privacy Act, id. at 53-54, but denied the motion to dismiss insofar as it sought a dismissal of the claims for damages under the Privacy Act, id. at 51-54. Also, because the unions lacked standing to maintain Privacy Act claims, id. at 49-50, the unions were dismissed as plaintiffs in this case, (Am. Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defs.' Mot. Dismiss (Aug. 22, 2008)).

The remaining plaintiffs now move to certify a class of "all current and former TSA Security Screener Officers, specifically security screener officers, lead security screener officers, and supervisory security screener officers, whose private information . . . was disclosed when the TSA lost control of an external hard drive containing said information." (Compl. at 6-7.) They seek declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and $1000 per class member-the statutory minimum in damages. 5 U.S.C. § 552a(g)(4)(A). The proposed class includes approximately 100,000 current and former security officers.

II.

To certify a class, the court must find that the proposed class satisfies the four prerequisites to class certification set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) and that it falls within one of the categories set forth in Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b). See Richards v. Delta Air Lines, Inc., 453 F.3d 525, 529 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Plaintiffs, as the party moving for class certification, bear the burden of establishing that all requirements for proceeding as a class have been satisfied. See Amchem Products, Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591, 614 (1997). Plaintiffs contend that their proposed class satisfies the requirements of Rule 23(a) and falls within Rule 23(b)(2). Rule 23 provides, in relevant part:

(a) Prerequisites. One or more members of a class may sue or be sued as representative parties on ...


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