David Coppedge Trial: JPL’s Defense Brief

The judge’s decision is expected in the next few weeks in the trial of the suit filed by David Coppedge, the creationist who claims he was wrongfully demoted and later fired by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. As you recall, he used to work as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is part of Caltech. He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines — which was recently moved here.

The Coppedge team has already filed their Plaintiff’s Post-trial Brief. It’s 25 pages of Coppedge’s lawyer putting the best face he can on his case. We mentioned it a while back, but we didn’t think it was important enough to really bother with. If you want to see it, it’s available in the archive maintained by our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), located here: NCSE’s Coppedge archive. The pleadings are all scans of pdf files.

Today we bring to your attention JPL’s Post-Trial Defense Brief. The stamp on the first page says the court clerk’s office got it on 29 May, so that’s why it was just added to the NCSE archive. Coppedge’s brief was filed on 08 May, so we’re guessing that the court’s rules give the defendant about 20 days to respond to the plaintiff’s brief. Anyway, that’s what it looks like. There may even be another round of reply briefs, If so, the judge’s decision won’t be known until after all of that.

We have no idea what the California trial procedures are, but we assume that these briefs are submitted not only on paper but also as computer files, so the judge can use parts of them in composing his own opinion. There’s no reason why the court should have to laboriously re-type all those statutory references, case citations, etc. Further, if the judge thinks certain paragraphs are well-reasoned, he may just cut and paste them into his decision. That sort of thing happened in the Kitzmiller case, and we understand it’s routine in Federal trials. It’s likely to be the same in California’s state trials too. No one should be surprised that after the winning side’s arguments are adopted by the court, parts of its brief may show up in the court’s opinion.

If that happens here, as it probably will, be prepared for high-pitched squeals of outrage from the Discoveroids. Casey still hasn’t stopped complaining that Judge Jones (who presided over the Kitzmiller case) “plagiarized” the winning side’s brief.

As we started reading JPL’s 24-page brief, we realized that we are not an unbiased observer. To us, every paragraph is pure gold, and it makes no sense for us to copy huge chunks of it here. JPL’s lawyers did a good job, and the document should be read in its entirety.

But if you want a quick summary, take a look at their table of contents. It starts on page 2 (at least as we view the document). Each section heading is written in complete sentences, and reading through that tells the whole tale. You really don’t need any more, and then you can just sit back until the judge issues his opinion.

It’s useful to compare JPL’s table of contents to the same thing in the Coppedge brief. It’s hard to believe that these lawyers are talking about the same trial. Coppedge argues, in effect, that he was engaged in a lonely struggle for intellectual freedom against the brutally biased forces of Big Science. JPL’s summary, on the other hand, tells of a troublesome employee with a long history of causing discord and other problems, and who was let go for perfectly understandable reasons — his skills were obsolete.

If you want to be entertained, read JPL’ section about “Witness Credibility” on page 15. Great stuff. Also, read their section on Coppedge’s “Damages” (what he’d be entitled to receive if he won), starting on page 19. It’s very illuminating. But hey, it’s all good, and it’s only 24 pages. Go for it.

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

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12 responses to “David Coppedge Trial: JPL’s Defense Brief

  1. docbill1351

    Once again Coppers did all this to himself: self-fulfilled Christian persecution complex. Nobody gave Coppy a wedgie. Nobody TP’d his cubicle or put a “kick me” sign on his back. If anything his coworkers avoided Copps as much as they could.

    I contend that the DI thought JPL would roll over and settle rather than waste resources mounting a trial defence. How’s that working for you, Westie?

  2. Spector567

    I personally don’t think DI expected JPL to settle. All they wanted was media contorversy and for the most part they got it. Big head lines that side “NASA fires scientist” and a fair amount of media coverage during Copps time on the stand.

    I also bet that DI paid for nothing. They sent there correspondent, made coppers feel special and tried to get him to bring ID up as much as possible so it could be made part of the trial. I honestly wonder if they are going to send Coppers a bill for there time like they did at dover.

    However, overall I think DI lost more than they expected. Copp was far from the public relations boon they wanted. Even the most ardent christian disagreed with Copps work place behaviour.

  3. It will be interesting to read the DI comments on JPL’s brief. It would be wise for them not draw attention to it, but when have they ever resisted such a temptation?

  4. Spector567 says: “However, overall I think DI lost more than they expected. Copp was far from the public relations boon they wanted.”

    You gotta pick your plaintiff carefully. If it’s some assistant professor who has authored a few weird books and who can’t get tenure, they can try to make him into a martyr. But if it’s an employee who interacts badly with dozens of his colleagues, and who maintains a creationist website on the side, that’s a tough sell.

    It’s also important to pick the right defendant. A state-funded museum that depends on good public relations might settle to avoid adverse publicity. But JPL? They depend entirely on their science reputation, and that might be enhanced if they don’t allow themselves to be pushed around in a situation like this.

  5. The JPL brief is a devastating list of the problems they experienced with what was clearly a problematic and confrontational person on a personal and misguided mission to outer space. :)
    The good news for Coppedge? He is a leading candidate for one of those prestigious faculty slots in the astrology department at Liberty U.

  6. Some good news for Coppedge – I hear Shorter University is hiring.

  7. Tundra Boy

    You gotta pick your plaintiff carefully.
    Oh man, I just plagiarized Curmy. Now I’m in the doodoo

  8. Uh, Tundra Boy, I said pick your plaintiff, not your nose.

  9. Tomato Addict says: “Some good news for Coppedge”

    Yeah? Well I’ve got good news for you: Tomato genome fully sequenced.

  10. Jack Hogan

    I admit my bias but even being as objective as I can manage it is hard to see how Coppege can win anything in this case.

    “J” alone should be sufficiently valid legal grounds for laying off Coppedge.

    Further, Coppedge was the one who was harassing co-workers and when politely and diplomatically told to knock it off — on many occasions — he played the victim card for all it was worth. And he did it over and over again. Aggressive proselytizing creationists play the victim and martyr so often when told to take it elsewhere it has become predictable. It is so predictable it may even be a law of the universe.

  11. Spector567

    Copps brief doesn’t even play lip services to his lack of skill.

    All JPL had to do was prove that Copp did not have the skills needed and had poor costomer relations in order to lay him off and win.

  12. Curmie: “Yeah? Well I’ve got good news for you: …”

    Alas, even science has succumbed to the influence of that evil fruit.