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.
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