THIS is another post about James Corbett, the history teacher at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, California, whose classroom remarks that creationism is “superstitious nonsense” were ruled to have violated the Constitution’s establishment clause. Our last Corbett update was on 15 Nov ‘09.
Five days before that, in our update of 10 Nov ‘09, we reported about a legal fee issue that arose because the creationist kid who sued Corbett had also sued the school board — which was found not liable. The same lawyers represented both Corbett and the school board, so the question was whether the kid, who nominally “won” the case, had to do the unthinkable — pay legal fees to Corbett’s lawyers because of their victory on behalf of the school board.
That fee issue had been unresolved until now. In the Orange County Register, the source of most of our Corbett news, we read Judge denies awarding $391,150 to teacher’s defense team. The headline tells the tale. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
U.S. District Court Judge James Selna said in an eight-page ruling that although the Capistrano Unified School District was not liable for Corbett’s actions, Capistrano was not eligible to recover any attorneys’ fees because student Chad Farnan’s lawsuit against the school district was not simply “a baseless, vexatious claim,” as Corbett’s attorneys had argued.
“C.F. (Chad Farnan) set out to prove a constitutional violation, and he did,” Selna said in his ruling. “The vagaries of the law in this area, from which Corbett benefitted, do not undermine the substantive validity of C.F.’s establishment clause claim, nor do they render his position frivolous.”
One could argue, as Corbett’s attorneys presumably did, that regardless of the claim against Corbett, suing the school district was indeed frivolous; but let’s read on:
Today’s ruling … marks the end of the case at the trial court level, although both sides already have appealed Selna’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
That should be interesting. We continue:
Corbett’s defense team comprises attorneys for Capistrano Unified and the teachers union. Capistrano Unified had asked for $154,781.50 in attorneys’ fees and $8,483 in court costs, and the union had asked for $223,737.50 in attorneys’ fees and $4,148 in court costs – for a total of $391,150.
Look at the chaos and costs that one creationist kid in class can create. There’s a lesson to be learned here, but we hesitate to say what it is. Maybe the appellate court will bring some sense to this mess. Here’s one last excerpt:
In the 9th Circuit, Corbett will seek to be exonerated; Farnan is seeking a stronger, broader judgment against Corbett.
It wouldn’t surprise us if the kid wants Corbett burned at the stake for witchcraft; and Corbett probably wants to get as far away from the kid and his lawyers as it’s possible to get. We’ll be awaiting the appellate court’s ruling.
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