THIS is the first time we’ve had some actual news to report since Coppedge filed his amended complaint, which we discussed here. Today’s news — which we’ll get to eventually — is that the complaint has, at last, been served on a couple of defendants.
Our last post on this topic was David Coppedge vs. JPL (10 Jun 2010), about an apparent shift in the plaintiff’s public relations tactics. The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:
This is about a suit by a creationist, David Coppedge, who claims he was wrongfully demoted by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. He works for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines.
This is a big case for the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). They’re trying to establish some new kind constitutional right — an employee’s “freedom to promote creationism” in the workplace. One of their top legal talents, Discoveroid Casey Luskin, is advising the lawyer for Coppedge — that’s William J. Becker, Jr., who seems to be mostly a personal injury and workers’ comp lawyer.
To promote the issue, the Discoveroids are waging a public relations campaign which we described here: The Coppedge Case: A Study in Tactics and Strategy. They’ve set up a page devoted to this case: Background on David Coppedge and the Lawsuit Against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
As you know, if you want to see the court documents in the Coppedge case, you’ll have to pay a small fee to the court clerks 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. You can also see a list of what documents have been filed, what proceedings have been held, and what future hearings have been scheduled. There’s no fee or registration required for that.
The last time we checked the court’s website was on 29 May, and because there’s been no news from other sources we decided to take another look. We found something.
On 09 June there were two “proofs of service” filed. That’s the plaintiff’s evidence that the complaint (or in this case perhaps the amended complaint) was served on a defendant. That starts the time running within which that defendant must respond. We think it’s 30 days in California, but we’re not sure.
After the process server delivers the complaint to a defendant, he then gives written evidence of that to the plaintiff’s lawyer. After that, the plaintiff’s lawyer (or maybe the process server) files the proof of service with the court.
Because of the interval between actual service and filing proof of service, it could be that those two defendants were served days before the proofs were filed. We haven’t paid the clerk’s fee to look at the documents because it’s not really important. The defendants know when they were served, and they’ll file some kind of response before they’re in default. When they do, the court’s website will note that, and it should also inform us of the names of those defense attorneys.
The very curious thing about this, at least to us, is that the original complaint was filed with the court on 14 April. It’s taken almost two months to get the complaint served on a couple of the defendants. We doubt that JPL or Caltech personnel have been hiding to avoid process servers, so what could possibly explain the delay in getting the complaint served? Maybe that’s typical of how long these things take in California, but we doubt it.
We’re only guessing, which means we could easily be wrong, but one possibility is that Coppedge and his lawyers aren’t very serious about litigating this case. So far all they’ve really done is file the complaint, amend it, and arrange for an Ark-load of publicity. Maybe they were hoping for a quick settlement without much effort. If that were their plan, it hasn’t worked very well so far.
Whatever the reason, Coppedge’s lawyer has finally come alive enough to get at least two of the defendants served. But after an interval of nearly two months, why is this happening now?
Possibly it’s because there’s a case management conference scheduled for 24 June. The court gave notice of that back on 25 May, when only the plaintiff had appeared in the case, and there wasn’t yet much of a case to manage. We couldn’t figure out a reason for such a conference, but maybe it’s a matter of routine in California.
Anyway, with that conference date rapidly approaching, and settlement talks (if any) going nowhere, Coppedge’s lawyer probably had no choice but to send out the process servers — otherwise he might look ridiculous at the conference.
We’ve been wrong before, but that’s our guess. Regardless, the game’s afoot.
Next update: David Coppedge vs. JPL (27 Jun 2010).
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