David Coppedge Trial: Day 2

The lawyers representing Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and Caltech are behaving in the old-fashioned way. That is, they’re not street-hustlers, issuing press releases and trying their case in the newspapers and other media. Rather, they’re keeping what they say for the courtroom. As a result, all the news coverage is wildly slanted in one direction, so it’s very frustrating to try to get accurate information about what’s happening.

For example, this morning on Fox and Friends there was an interview of both Coppedge and his lawyer. You can watch it here. Although we only saw the last few seconds of it, it seemed that they were treated respectfully, which is understandable. We’re not sure because we weren’t watching all morning, but it’s safe to guess that there was no one on TV this morning to speak for the JPL-Caltech side.

Making sense of the news stories is like practicing Kremlinology during the days of the Cold War. We have to know the adversary’s jargon so we can ignore their customary bluster, and then read between the lines for things that aren’t mentioned that might have some significance. That’s how we reached the conclusion — from yesterday’s Discoveroid post — that virtually all of the pending motions in limine were decided in favor of JPL-Caltech.

The important thing is to recognize that there are two sides to this case, and one isn’t showing up in the media. Therefore we must apply extreme skepticism to whatever rumors may be flying around. To assist you in this difficult situation, here are some sources of accurate information:

First, there’s the courthouse. The clerk’s office maintains a docket for the Coppedge case, and they require payment of fees to obtain copies of the listed pleadings. You can visit that source here: Superior Court of California, Los Angeles. At the box for “Case Number” you need to enter BC435600. Some minimal information is available for free — the names of the parties and their lawyers, a list of what documents have been filed, what proceedings have been held, and what future hearings have been scheduled. The press has totally ignored this information.

Most of those pleadings were obtained from the court clerk’s office (at no small expense) by our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), and then posted at their archive of pleadings in the case: NCSE’s Coppedge archive. They’re scans of pdf files, so it’s not possible to cut-and-paste from them, but that’s your best source of information. Indeed, it’s your only source of information from both sides of the case.

Finally, for those who may be fans of this humble blog, this link will take you to all of our prior postings on The David Coppedge Case. But there are way too many of them, so we don’t expect you to bother.

Anyway, there probably won’t be any reliable news today, so let’s just use this post for commenting on what stories may emerge, if any. And please avoid the temptation to slander these people. As much as they may deserve it, that’s not an effective way to discuss the issues.

It suddenly occurs to us that what this case needs is someone like Lauri Lebo. She was there for us during the Kitzmiller case, turning out informative and accurate stories. There’s no one with that kind of talent and dedication this time around, so we’ll just have to peer through the darkness and hope for the best.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “David Coppedge Trial: Day 2

  1. I agree that we need Lebo or her equivalent here. Unfortunately, that was seven years ago, and the news reporting business is a different animal these days.

    The court website has posted tentative rulings on the motions. Hopefully NCSE will make these available later today.

  2. Everything you say is wise. One thing I’ve noticed is the lack of discussion of the Creation-Evolution Headlines blog and the massive amount of posting Coppedge did, including posts making silly YEC critiques of Cassini findings, which would have infuriated any scientists or science educators working on the Cassini mission. Discussion here:

    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2012/03/coppedge-vs-jpl.html

  3. Completely off topic Curmie:
    I think you might like this review by Michael Shermer on The Darwin Economy by Robert Frank. http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/03/13/another-fatal-conceit/#more-17076
    Shermer seems to have missed something–his commenters pick it up.
    P.S. I haven’t read the book

  4. Nick, two points regarding the Coppedge Creo/Evo website:

    1. Apparently there’s scant mention of the website in the legal documents. That suggests that the lawyers won’t make much of an issue of it, if at all.

    2. If the website was constructed and updated on Coppedge’s time, then that’s his business and not JPL’s.

    Now sure: it’s quite possible that somebody got wind of the website and didn’t like Coppedge’s slams against JPL. Much as I wouldn’t like it, I’m not sure that JPL could do much about that.

  5. Speaking of Lauri Lebo and Dover, one of my favorite scenes from NOVA’s “Intelligent Design on Trial” is when Lauri described her reaction when it became obvious Judge Jones knew Bonsell lied under oath.

    ——–

    LAURI LEBO: It was almost like this weird feeling that, you know when you’ve watched a nature show and you know that the gazelle’s about to get it from the lion? You know, I remember actually thinking, “Oh, god, Judge Jones is going to kill Alan Bonsell. I don’t…I can’t look.”

    And then Judge Jones, his face had gotten bright red at this point, and he goes, “You tell me why you didn’t say where that money came from to buy Of Pandas and People?”

    And Alan Bonsell finally, under Judge Jones’s grilling, started to get a little nervous. And he started flapping his hands, and he started stammering, and he completely had lost this self-assured composure that he had earlier. And finally he just said, “Well, I misspoke.”

  6. Thanks, Lynn Wilhelm. That’s an excellent article. But I wasn’t that impressed by the comments.

  7. Nick, two points regarding the Coppedge Creo/Evo website:

    1. Apparently there’s scant mention of the website in the legal documents. That suggests that the lawyers won’t make much of an issue of it, if at all.

    2. If the website was constructed and updated on Coppedge’s time, then that’s his business and not JPL’s.

    Now sure: it’s quite possible that somebody got wind of the website and didn’t like Coppedge’s slams against JPL. Much as I wouldn’t like it, I’m not sure that JPL could do much about that.

    I mostly agree with what you say — but hypothetically, if people at JPL were hiring someone from scratch, and had several candidates, and one of them was an active young-earth creationist blogger actively disagreeing with the well-accepted science on which much of the Cassini mission is based, I think JPL/Caltech (a private institution anyway, apparently), would be well within its rights to take this into account. Is the situation substantially different when they have 4 sysadmins and only 2 spots?

    Apart from the above, there is the question of whether or not that massive amount of posting actually happened on personal time. It seems like the defense lawyers should have asked, at least. However no one has the deposition transcripts I think.

  8. My impression is JPL does not want to talk about or address ID at all.

    So when Coppedge’s side brings it up and claims JPL/Caltech considers it religion what do they do? Do they try to demonstrate it is a essentially a religious belief that has nothing to do with the mission? Do they try to demonstrate it is contrary to the science NASA/JPL/Caltech does? Do they need to do any of that?

    Or do they only demonstrate it is unrelated to Coppedge’s job and to what the people he was working with were doing? Do they essentially dismiss it as irrelevant?

    Coppedge and the DI desperately want JPL/Caltech to address ID. Can they avoid doing that?

  9. Jack Hogan says: “Do they essentially dismiss it as irrelevant?”

    Sure, why not? It wouldn’t matter if the DVDs were Coppedge’s personal collection of Disney cartoons. Nobody wanted that stuff, and — at least according to JPL — Coppedge was behaving like a pest.

  10. I have only been to CEH a few times because the mind-bogglingly stupid stuff there is too painful to read. However, I’ll hand it to old Cops that he is one prolific dude! Even when he was having his troubles he kept churning out articles.

    Check it out from January, 2011 and you’ll see posts right through his layoff date! You’d think the dude would at least take one day off after getting the sack.

    Also, this is the Good Old Creationist Site format with all the fonts, colors, animated GIF’s and such like that which is why we need maps. But, I digress.

    At least Coppy is an Equal Opportunity Anti-Science nut because he doesn’t like anything and, yes, he has slammed his own people right there on the Cassini mission. Here is Copps on space scientists:

    They don’t know, and they weren’t there, so is this science, or is it educated storytelling with unlimited withdrawals from the Ad Hoc Bank?

    Were you there? Nice.

  11. @DocBill

    At least Coppy is an Equal Opportunity Anti-Science nut because he doesn’t like anything and, yes, he has slammed his own people right there on the Cassini mission.

    Hope that can come out during the trial.

  12. Jack, IANAL but Coppedge’s insistence that ID is science may come back to haunt him. If he testifies to that effect, then that could open the door to the Cre/Evo website and its contents. Coppedge would then be forced to either admit that the contents therein do not constitute valid science, or he’ll have to deal with his JPL slams. If that happens, I predict a Coppedge meltdown.

  13. There are additional documents available at the NCSE archive. Unfortunately, the particular document of my personal interest (“TENTATIVE RULING RE: MOTIONS IN LIMINE”) is apparently still not available there.

    However, there’s an interesting objection by Coppedge: he doesn’t want Chin present at the trial as JPL’s representative. Gee, Chin was Coppedge’s supervisor, and possibly the only person who’d give Coppedge as fair a shake as anybody at JPL. Why doesn’t Coppedge want Chin present at trial?

  14. Rubble says: “There are additional documents available at the NCSE archive.”

    Yeah, but nothing much to blog about. We must be patient.

  15. Rubble said:

    Why doesn’t Coppedge want Chin present at trial?

    Precisely because he knows about Coppedge. It would just make JPL’s task at trial too… easy. Even though IANAL, JPL’s request to have Coppedge’s request dismissed looks pretty solid. Deny JPL having Chin present and, if they lose, they have a good case for an appeal.

    As for Coppedge’s writings on his website, he should have remembered that JPL, while funded by NASA, is still a part of Caltech. Hence, it’s not exactly a government entity and his rights are far less than if this were a true govvie job.

    Finally, I think this lawsuit is perfectly in keeping with my take on his character. He feels slighted not only that they didn’t realize his true brilliance, but they let him… HIM, you know, David Coppedge, they let him go! Why don’t they realize who he is? How dare they? Hence, he’s asking for court costs and “a statement from the judge that his rights were violated”.

    It’s that last part that’s the key. That’s the Holy Grail so far as DI and ADF are concerned. If they get that, forget court costs. They’ll happily pay for both sides of the costs to get that.