A case in California is trying to decide whether Toyota's push-button start system in a 2012 Highlander violates safety standards. One expert isn't going to be testifying before the court, though. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is blocking former administrator David Strickland from taking the stand as a witness for the automaker.

The Detroit News acquired the letter from NHTSA's lawyer to Strickland about testifying in the case, and the organization's concern largely came from avoiding a perceived conflict of interest. "Mr. Strickland's testimony as a former NHTSA administrator describing Toyota's actions or conduct in this matter with approval, will likely diminish the agency's ability to pursue a vigorous enforcement review of Toyota moving forward," a portion of the document said. The automaker's side had believed Strickland would be free to speak on general topics. According to The Detroit News, Strickland agreed not to oppose the government's decision on the issue.

Strickland was at the helm of NHTSA during Toyota's unintended acceleration recalls and defended how the agency handled the issue at the time. Arguably, he left the post as the government body's boss at a pretty good time. It was shortly after he stepped down at the end of 2013 that General Motors' ignition switch recall began. After that, Takata's airbag inflator campaigns became a huge topic, as well. The scrutiny led to NHTSA officials appearing in front of multiple hearings before Congress and a scathing audit of the agency's failures over the past years. After stepping down, Strickland joined law firm Venable LLP, according to The Detroit News.

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