Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech: New Pleadings #4

This post will discuss the rest of the latest batch of new pleadings that we started discussing here: Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech: New Pleadings #3. That previous post has all the background information you may need, but we’ll remind you that David Coppedge is the creationist who claims he was wrongfully demoted (and later fired) by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. He used to work as a computer technician for Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which is part of Caltech. He also maintains a creationist website: Creation-Evolution Headlines — which was recently moved here.

These pleadings were obtained from the court clerk’s office by our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), and then posted at their archive of pleadings in the case: NCSE’s Coppedge archive. They’re scans of pdf files. The bold font in our excerpts was added by us for emphasis.

All of the recent activity concerns several motions in limine the parties filed in order to determine what evidence the judge will allow in or exclude from the trial. As we’ve seen with our brief examination of earlier pleadings, JPL-Caltech fears that unless the judge digs in and puts some reasonable limits on things, the Coppedge team will turn the courtroom into a theater for a propaganda extravaganza promoting creationism and publicizing the “discrimination” its followers have endured over the years.

Okay, let’s get to the two remaining pleadings. The first is JPL’s Opposition to Coppedge’s Motion in Limine #4, to Exclude References to 3rd Parties with an interest in the trial’s outcome. Recall, as we posted here, that Coppedge wants:

… to exclude any and all reference to the Discovery Institute, the Alliance Defense Fund or other third parties interested in the outcome of this case for the purpose of claiming that Coppedge was motivated to file this action to promote or publicize intelligent design or to expose counsel’s affiliations with the organizations. Alternatively, Plaintiff requests that it be permitted to respond to such evidence with the rebuttal testimony of organizational representatives.


Coppedge’s counsel also applied for and was issued a grant through the ADF to underwrite some of Coppedge’s costs in this case. The Alliance Defense Fund (“ADF”) has publicly supported this case [link omitted]. The DI is publicizing it on its web sites. But so are opponents of intelligent design, such as the National Center for Science Education, which is posting the pleadings in this case on its website [link omitted], as well as bloggers who are republishing the pleadings and offering generally superficial commentary on their web sites and proving Plaintiff’s point in this case: that militant hostility toward intelligent design (often puerile), the spreading of misinformation and ad hominem attacks by intelligent design’s detractors are a common reaction to support for intelligent design.

We assume that your humble Curmudgeon is the “puerile” blogger to whom they’re referring, because a Google blog search on “David Coppedge” doesn’t show much going on lately, except for our posts and those of a few bloggers writing how terrible it is that NASA is discriminating against a Christian. That’s okay, we’ve been called far worse than puerile. Anyway, here’s what JPL-Caltech says in opposition to that motion:

Coppedge does not dispute that the Discovery Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund support this lawsuit. Indeed, this motion discloses previously unknown information about their involvement, i.e., that the Discovery Institute provides “uncompensated legal staff assistance” and “assistance educating counsel about intelligent design” … . The role of these organizations in this lawsuit is relevant, but for reasons different from those Coppedge mistakenly attributes to Caltech. It establishes that Coppedge’s expert on intelligent, Mr. David DeWolf, is not only biased, but may actually have a personal stake in the lawsuit’s outcome, and it calls into question Coppedge’s credibility.

Caltech suspects that Coppedge’s real goal here is not to exclude Caltech from discussing the involvement of the Discovery Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund, but rather to obtain license to devote even more time at trial to the intelligent design movement, and its beliefs and goals, by introducing testimony from these organizations’ representatives.

But that’s not all. JPL-Caltech’s pleading continues:

The interest and involvement of the Discovery Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund are very relevant to this action, for multiple reasons.

First, this evidence is relevant to establishing bias on the part of Coppedge’s intelligent design expert, Dr. David DeWolf. Dr. DeWolf is a paid senior fellow with the Discovery Institute, earning between $10,000 and $25,000 per year. … Moreover, Dr. DeWolf, an attorney, admitted at deposition that the Discovery Institute is a client of his … .

Thus, not only is Dr. DeWolf neither objective nor impartial, but he has a personal financial interest in the outcome of Coppedge’s case. The success of this lawsuit (or lack thereof) could impact his engagement by the Discovery Institute, and, in turn, the compensation he receives from them. The jurors are entitled to know all this information so they may judge for themselves the credibility (or lack of credibility) of DeWolf’s testimony.

Second, this evidence is relevant to Coppedge’s credibility. Regardless of why Coppedge filed this lawsuit in the first place, the jury is entitled to understand the role of the Discovery Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund in supporting this lawsuit and their larger interests in promoting intelligent design — and to consider Coppedge’s claims and testimony in the context of those background facts.

There’s more in that pleading, but we can’t copy it all. However, you may want to look at one of the attached exhibits. It’s a letter from Becker, Coppedge’s attorney, to one of the attorneys for JPL-Caltech, advising them that he intends to file a motion in limine to keep out evidence of DeWolf’s compensation:

It doesn’t prove he’s a hired gun any more than the fact that he is a senior fellow at the DI. But it does do harm. This case is being watched and followed by various groups hostile to the DI and intelligent design. They include the National Center for Science Education, which is uploading all documents filed in this case to its web site. They are being linked to other web sites. These groups have no business learning the amount of DD’s stipend other than to defame him and derogate the ID movement. JPL will look not just very petty disallowing this request, but will prove its own hostility toward ID.

The next exhibit after that one is JPL’s response to Becker. Interesting stuff. And before those letters there’s a transcript of DeWolf’s deposition. The year the Discoveroids paid him $25K was 2005, the same year as the Kitzmiller case; and he wrote one of the amicus briefs in that case.

Those are facts that Becker didn’t want us to learn. Well, we’ve learned them, and so have you, dear reader. If DeWolf’s compensation is so embarrassing, perhaps the Coppedge team should have found a distinguished pro-intelligent design expert who isn’t being paid by the Discovery Institute. Surely there must be someone, somewhere, who fits that description.

Now we turn to the last pleading. It’s PL’s Opposition to Coppedge’s Motion in Limine #5, to Exclude Testimony of JPL’s Economist. Recall, as we reported here, that JPL-Caltech has an expert witness, an economist/statistician, who will testify about Coppedge’s ability to find a comparable job after he was let go in a JPL downsizing. Coppedge’s claim here is that the witness isn’t qualified, his testimony will be speculative, and it will confuse the jury.

To us, it seems reasonable to have someone testify about how many jobs are available to Coppedge if he gets laid off, and how long the average computer technician spends between jobs. It goes to the question of how much Coppedge was damaged by JPL’s actions. It’s probably standard stuff in a wrongful termination case — which this ought to be. But to Coppedge, this isn’t a case about a man who lost his job — he wants to present a drama about how his life has been forever shattered because JPL is prejudiced against the splendid new science of intelligent design. Anyway, this issue of an economist’s testimony doesn’t involve creationism so we won’t bother with it. Go ahead and read JPL’s pleading if that stuff interests you.

And that ends our report on what we assume will be the last of the pre-trial pleadings. Next up will be the judge’s ruling on these latest motions, and then the trial begins on 07 March. It doesn’t look like these guys are going to settle.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech: New Pleadings #4

  1. Puerile? Puerile? I’m thinking that the DI and ADF are a little ticked that their publicity campaign is not going as planned.

  2. Ceteris Paribus

    The motions bring to mind the American folktale of “Br’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby.” In which Br’er Fox schemes to catch Br’er Rabbit in a trap that relies on Br’er Rabbit’s pridefulness. Rabbit does get caught, but hornswaggles his way out by begging Fox to “Do anything to me that you wish, but PLEASE don’t throw me into the briar patch”.
    Which is of course what Fox does. Then, from a safe distance, Rabbit taunts Fox and reminds him that the briar patch is the natural habitat of the rabbit. Good trial lawyers surely know that tale well and use it in framing their motions.

    Thinking back on the Dover trial, at a crucial point just before the actual trial began, the witnesses and legal support which the DI had provided prior to the trial, all skedaddled back to Seattle after the judge ruled on the pre-trial motions. The Dover Board was left hanging out to dry on their own.

    Of course after the trial, the DI was not shy about using the verdict in their creationist propaganda. From the point of propaganda value, the DI knows it can’t lose no matter what happens with the Coppedge case.

  3. Ceteris Paribus

    @ Gary
    Use of the single adjective “puerile” shows a blatant lack of respect for our SC!

    In the Dover trial, the DI’s pre-trial motion to exclude Barbara Forrest from testifying labeled her as:

    “[l]ittle more than a conspiracy theorist and a web-surfing, ‘cyber-stalker’ of the Discovery Institute . . . and its supporters and allies.”

  4. Well, Barbara is worth many more adjectives than I am.

  5. In the first link (MIL #4), one of the pages of the deposition of Coppedge contains his statement that within a week after he had his meeting with his boss in March 2009, he consulted with his friends at the Discovery Institute, Casey Luskin and John West. The earliest link to the Coppedge matter on the DI’s website is their announcement of his lawsuit on 15 Apr 2010, in which both Luskin and West are quoted. (naturally, no mention is made of the fact that they had been working with him for a full year before the lawsuit)

    It makes you wonder if Luskin and West set him up.

  6. Ed says: “It makes you wonder if Luskin and West set him up.”

    They’re using him. Like one of those monkeys NASA used to send up in the early rockets, so see how they’d survive. If they were OK, fine; but if not … back to the drawing board.

  7. Not only “puerile”, but also “superficial”. Apparently so puerile and superficial they are regular readers. And they are paid to do it. I hope the DI’s financial backers are happy about paying DI employees, AKA “ID researchers”, to regularly read “puerile” and “superficial” blogs.

    And talk about projection. Recall the DI’s puerile and superficial mocking of Judge Jones after Dover, including Demdski’s adolescent video. Puerile and superficial are Luskin’s and Klinghoffer’s stock and trade. And superficial nicely characterizes the DI’s “critical analysis” of the ToE.

  8. I commented on another thread here that I thought they were poopy heads for calling me puerile!

    As for this:

    the Coppedge team should have found a distinguished pro-intelligent design expert who isn’t being paid by the Discovery Institute. Surely there must be someone, somewhere, who fits that description.

    There are no “intelligent design” creationism experts not paid by the DI. And even with the paid fraudsters they play hot potato. Ask Meyer about IC and he refers you to Behe. Ask Behe about the nixplanatory filter and he tells you to talk to Dembski. Ask Dembski about codes in the cell and he sends you back to Meyer.

    They’re like three mutually repelling particles in their own Moronverse; the moetron, larrytron and curlytron. Together they form the bozotron responsible for the bozone layer that causes irreparable willful ignorance, a total loss of ethics and your eyebrows to grow together.

    Actually, on second thought, there is an ID expert not employed by the DI and that would be Barbara Forrest. However, they probably don’t want her on their team because of her very high tolerance to bozone.

  9. Very good, Doc Bill. Puerile, but good.

  10. I pride my self in putting extra snark in Snark-a-licious!

  11. @Ceteris:

    Use of the single adjective “puerile” shows a blatant lack of respect for our SC!

    That’s true on more than one level.

    Well, Barbara is worth many more adjectives than I am.

    Oh, so true. The DI already found one them (the hard way), “formidable”.
    @Doc Bill:

    I pride my self in putting extra snark in Snark-a-licious!

    There goes the Mt Dew in the nose again!