We’ve been calling this the Darwin’s Dilemma Exhibition Case. The actual case name is American Freedom Alliance v. California Science Center, California Science Center Foundation, Jeffrey Rudolph, et al. It’s sometimes abbreviated AFA v. CSC.
This is a lawsuit filed by the American Freedom Alliance (AFA), claiming that the California Science Center (CSC or “Science Center”) violated both the First Amendment and a contract to rent its theater when it canceled a screening of Darwin’s Dilemma. The AFA is an outfit promoting “the controversy” about evolution — in the interest of what they call “academic freedom.” The film they wanted to show includes appearances by Richard von Sternberg, Jonathan Wells, and Stephen Meyer, all “senior fellows” with the Discovery Institute (the “Discoveroids”), claiming that the Cambrian “explosion” is evidence of intelligent design.
The theater owner getting sued is the California Science Center, along with the two other defendants: the Science Center Foundation (the actual party to the contract for showing the film), and Jeffrey Rudolph, who is president of both the Science Center and the Foundation. The Foundation canceled its contract with the AFA, alleging that a Discoveroid press release (which the Science Center hadn’t approved) violated a contract clause requiring the Science Center’s prior approval of all promotional materials. Technically, although Discoveroids are in the film, and two Discoveroid “senior fellows” were scheduled to conduct a discussion session after the showing of the film, the Discovery Institute wasn’t a party to the exhibition agreement, and they’re technically not involved in the litigation.
The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has many of the court pleadings available online. See: American Freedom Alliance v. California Science Center et al.
Our last update on this case was 29 May ’11. All the background is there if you haven’t been following this. In that post we discussed that the Science Center is moving for summary judgment, and the NCSE archive is loaded with their statements and memoranda in support thereof. They’re all pdf files, as you’ve come to expect. In comments to that thread we mentioned that the creationist plaintiff had started filing pleadings to oppose the Science Center’s motion. That’s where we were at the end of May.
The trial had been set to begin on 25 July 2011, but there hasn’t been a trial. What’s been going on since our last report?
The Science Center and its president have filed a Brief in Support of their motion for Summary Judgment (17-page pdf file). It’s exquisitely detailed, of interest to law junkies. It argues, among other things, that the AFA (the creationist plaintiff) didn’t file under some kind of government claims act, so their breach of contract case is barred. They also argue that the Science Center wasn’t a party to the exhibition contract (that was made with the CSC Foundation). Also, the plaintiff’s constitutional claims (equal protection, etc.) are nonsensical; and the AFA has no claim against the President of the Science Center (due to some kind of governmental immunity); also there’s no evidence of “discrimination” against creationism or violation of the AFA’s freedom of speech.
Another recently-filed pleading is the Science Center’s Request for Judicial Notice. It mentions that the trial date is set for 12 September. We didn’t know the date had been re-set, but now we understand why the trial didn’t start last week. Also, the court had ordered a settlement conference for 24 June. That seemed to be rather routine with the trial approaching, so we didn’t blog about it.
In our last post we had remarked that the Science Center’s motion for summary judgment looked very strong. As we kept up with what was appearing in the NCSE archive, we noticed that the creationist plaintiff had not filed its own motion for summary judgment, which caused us to suspect that their case wasn’t strong enough to justify the bother of such a motion.
Well, we just checked again, and we have some big news: The NCSE archive now has this: Stipulation and Order To Continue Hearings on Motions. That seemed so routine that we almost didn’t bother looking at it — but we did. It says, with bold font added by us:
Whereas, on July 18, 2011, the parties reached a settlement in principal [sic] and are currently preparing the final settlement agreement;
Whereas, in light of the pending settlement, it would preserve the parties’ and the court’s resources to continue the hearings on the pending motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication for a sufficient time to allow the parties to finalize the settlement agreement;
NOW THEREFORE, THE PARTIES STIPULATE AS FOLLOWS:
The hearings on each of the Defendants’ pending motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication shall be continued to August 8, 2011 …
The stipulation is signed by the lawyers for all parties, and at the end of it there was a form of order for the court, which the judge has signed. It says:
Based on the parties’ stipulation and for good cause shown,
The hearings on each of the Defendants’ pending motions for summary judgment and summary adjudication currently scheduled for July 27,2011shall be continued to August 8, 2011 … .
So there you are. Unless there’s some last-minute flare-up, this thing should be over soon. In fact, it’s probably over now but we haven’t heard the news yet. As soon as we know the settlement terms — if they’re disclosed — we’ll let you know.
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