David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (17 Jul ’11)

This is a suit by a creationist, David Coppedge, who claims he was wrongfully demoted (and later fired) by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. He works (or did until recently) as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines.

We won’t repeat all the background information, but if you’re new to the subject you can read about it in this earlier post. Our most recent update was David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (03 Jul ’11). The news then was that Coppedge had tried to get a continuance of the trial but the court denied that request. The trial is still set to start on 19 October 2011 — three months from now. There was also a settlement conference set for 14 July and we have no word about what happened there, but presumably the case wasn’t settled.

Okay, what’s been happening? The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) maintains an archive of pleadings in this case, which you can find here: NCSE’s Coppedge archive. We see that there has been one development, and it’s potentially a biggie.

Caltech (which includes JPL) has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (5-page pdf file). That was filed a couple of days before our last update, but it wasn’t yet available at NCSE’s archive. Indeed, Coppedge had tried to get the hearing on this motion continued along with the trial, but he seems to have been unsuccessful at that too. A hearing on the motion is set for 16 September — two months from now.

In a nutshell, Caltech’s motion claims that there is no issue of fact on certain matters, so they’re entitled to judgment as a matter of law, without the necessity of a trial. They say that despite Coppedge’s allegations, there’s no evidence of religious discrimination, violation of public policy, violation of free speech rights, etc. The motion seems to track the allegations in Coppedge’s latest complaint. In other words: “Hey judge, Coppedge has no facts on his side, so rule for us because there’s no reason for a trial here.”

Two other pleadings filed by Caltech provide detailed material in support of that motion. Here’s their Statement of Facts. It’s a 48-page pdf file, well worth reading if you’re interested in the case. It has lots of information about Coppedge’s employment history at JPL and his behavior with their other employees. Discussion about his conduct promoting intelligent design and opposing gay marriage starts at page 15. It also mentions something we’ve suspected — being “demoted” from his position as “team lead” involved no reduction in his salary.

Lastly there is Caltech’s Legal Memorandum in support of the motion. It’s a 26-page pdf file, and although it cites a lot of cases, it’s a good factual summary of the case — from Caltech’s side, of course.

So that’s the news. Coppedge hasn’t filed his own motion for summary judgment. After reading over the facts presented by Caltech, it’s unlikely that he will. But he’ll probably file something in opposition to Caltech’s motion.

Where does the matter sit now? Either Caltech will be granted summary judgment after the 16 September hearing, or (assuming there’s no settlement) the case will go to trial in October. Stay tuned to this blog.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “David Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech (17 Jul ’11)

  1. My guess is that Coppedge had no idea how thorough the legal process would be, or that JPL was not going to just settle to avoid legal fees. The 48 page document, much of appears to be quotes from Coppedge’s deposition, makes a solid case.

    The coolest part, which we knew all along would be the case, was that ID had almost nothing to do with any of it.

  2. Ed says:

    My guess is that Coppedge had no idea how thorough the legal process would be …

    Of course he didn’t. That’s his lawyer’s job. I guess they thought that “viewpoint discrimination” against creationism was some kind of magic charm that would win the day for them.

  3. Coppedge never figured out that he needed to modify his behavior on the job, even after being coached by his boss. It’s always somebody else’s fault with Coppedge. In the Statement of Facts, about page 40, Coppedge writes after praising his supervisor and management for being open and fair:

    And it just stunned me that a man of his, you know, qualifications and character would stick to what appeared to me to be talking points that he was being given from somebody saying, ‘Here is what you need to say to Dave.’

    Right. “Somebody” gave his management 3-levels up “talking points” to specifically harass a technician. That’s delusional thinking.

  4. Doc Bill says:

    “Somebody” gave his management 3-levels up “talking points” to specifically harass a technician.

    Of course! Otherwise he would have blabbed the truth about creationism. The “Darwinists” at JPL couldn’t allow that, so they all conspired to silence Coppedge. It’s an outrageous example of how far “Darwinists” will go to keep The Truth from getting out.

  5. I worked with a guy who was just sour. Everything and everybody was bad or conspiring against him. All the time. He was a 24/7 Danny Downer. Nobody could stand to be around him. Sure enough, a big layoff came along and he was out the door, mainly because his sourness affected his productivity and he spent 7 hours complaining and one hour working.

    Anyway, ten years later he’s back! Apparently, after getting laid off he found another job and got laid off from that! No surprise. But, he got hired by our company in a separate division because on his resume he omitted that he had ever worked for us and nobody in HR caught it. Well, it wasn’t long before questions got raised and he got fired for withholding information in his interview. It was great gossip while it lasted.

  6. I read through this. I’ve worked with a lot of guys like this. Nothing is ever their fault. They are always misunderstood and conspired against and surrounded by idiots.