David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (09 Oct 2010)

Our last post on this topic was more than a month ago: David Coppedge vs. JPL & Caltech (03 Sep 2010). We reported that during what was then the preceding month, nothing new had been filed with the court, nor had any hearings been scheduled. We also mentioned that it had been months since the Discoveroids have said anything about this case at their blog.

The next few indented paragraphs provide background information, which most of you can skip:

This is 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, which is here.

The official information source for the Coppedge case requires payment of 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, a list of what documents have been filed, what proceedings have been held, and what future hearings have been scheduled.

Okay, we’re all up to date. We checked with the court’s website and found that two more items have been filed. On 14 September a “Notice” was filed by the defendant’s attorneys — that’s the attorneys for Caltech and JPL. We haven’t yet subscribed to the court clerk’s service to see their documents, so until our clandestine operatives supply us with copies (that’s been happening, but not for these items) we’re only guessing about what these documents contain.

The second item to be filed was on 04 October. It’s titled “Notice – Case Management Conference,” and it was filed by the clerk — not by a party. Also, in the section for “Future Hearings,” there’s a Case Management Conference scheduled for 17 November. So now we have to start guessing.

After Googling around, we found this form for a Case Management Statement online. It’s a 4-page pdf file. Our assumption is that one of those forms was filled in and filed by the lawyers for Caltech and JPL, and then the court set a conference to discuss the status of the case.

This appears to be routine procedure to update the judge on what’s happening and to get the parties to consider the possibility of settlement. We note that what seems to be a similar statement was filed by Coppedge’s lawyer on 21 June. Now that the lawyers for Caltech and JPL have answered the latest complaint (which we discussed here) and filed their own Management Statement, it makes sense that a Case Management Conference would be scheduled by the judge.

That’s the latest activity in this case — at least as revealed by the court clerk’s office. Things are probably happening at the lawyer-to-lawyer level of which we’re not yet aware. Whatever may be going on behind the scenes, we doubt that Caltech and JPL are anticipating a loss that would require them to promote creationists and tolerate their preaching on the job.

It’s always worth noting, however, what isn’t happening. There are no recent posts about this case at the Discoveroids’ blog. Their last was four months ago, on 10 June. We discussed it here. Also, at least for now, they have abandoned their failed effort to drum up popular support by issuing a blizzard of press releases — which they were doing when this suit was first filed.

So the case drags on. Coppedge remains on the JPL payroll, but his demoted status continues, which is what he’s complaining about. He’s undoubtedly still a creationist, and still upset that his efforts to evangelize his co-workers about the glories of creation science aren’t appreciated or even tolerated.

And to the great disappointment of the Discoveroids, despite all their furious public relations efforts, except for the parties and their lawyers — and your humble Curmudgeon, of course — the world doesn’t seem to care about the plight of David Coppedge.

Update: See David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (18 Nov 2010).

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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One response to “David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (09 Oct 2010)

  1. PR-wise this is a nonstarter for the PR Institute. Why? Because while teaching a bit of anti-science nonsense to their kids isn’t problematic to a large part of the populace (since they believe it themselves), the thought of obnoxious religious colleagues proselytizing to them on the job is about as popular as influenza is.

    Sure, if some gross violoation of Coppedge’s rights were actually found people would be concerned. But at worst JPL misjudged on the margin, in all probability, while at best they were simply protecting Coppedge’s fellow employees from a highly annoying situation. With even the CSC seeming to lose interest in hyping the case (what else have they to do, science?), there seems little reason to think that JPL did anything very untoward, and it appears more likely that they did nothing wrong at all.

    Although it’s still up to the courts to make the final determination, naturally.