Yes, another batch of pleadings has been filed. Our last post, which we thought would be the end of it until the judge ruled on all the pending motions and then the trial starts on 07 March, was Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech: New Pleadings #4.
As you know, 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.
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. The judge’s rulings will be vital in determining whether this will be: (a) a routine trial about alleged wrongful termination of an allegedly misbehaving employee who was warned, then demoted, and finally let go in a downsizing; or (b) a month-long extravaganza in which the jury will be shown DVDs about the glories of creationism and the horrors of how its noble proponents have been ruthlessly Expelled! by the godless scientists. In other words, will the trial be about the real world or the creationists’ fantasy world? That’s what this stuff is all about.
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.
There are four pleadings in the latest batch. They’re all filed by the Coppedge team, and each one is a response to JPL-Caltech’s opposition to motions previously filed on behalf of Coppedge. In other words, there’s really nothing new here, except that Coppedge is making one last attempt to defend four of his motions in limine.
The first is Coppedge’s response to JPL’s Opposition to Coppedge’s Motion in Limine #2, to Exclude References to Proposition 8. We’ve already discussed JPL-Caltech’s position here. Proposition 8 was a proposal to ban gay marriage in California. Coppedge supported Prop 8, and his badgering co-workers about that was one of JPL’s complaints about him. In his motion in limine, Coppedge is trying to keep that topic from being mentioned at the trial because, he claims, it would be prejudicial.
JPL said the issue isn’t about gay marriage, but rather, it’s about Coppedge’s manner of interacting with Caltech’s employees regarding Proposition 8. Two of the three employees who complained about Coppedge cited his conduct in connection with Proposition 8, and Coppedge’s April 2009 written warning was based in part on his interactions with them about Proposition 8.
Now, in defense of the original motion to exclude Proposition 8 from the trial, Coppedge argues:
All of Plaintiff’s Motions in Limine are brought to facilitate the smooth delivery of relevant and not unduly prejudicial evidence at trial.
“Smooth delivery,” unimpeded by inconvenient information. Coppedge’s pleading then quotes external sources about what a “white hot controversy” Proposition 8 was, including tales of demonstrations, vandalism, and death threats (none of which involved Coppedge), and argues that the nature of Coppedge’s conversations could be presented to the jury without mentioning the contents of those conversations. In other words, JPL’s defense of its disciplinary actions should be limited to claiming: “Coppedge’s co-workers didn’t like his style of conversation.”
The next item is Coppedge’s response to JPL’s Opposition to Coppedge’s Motion in Limine #3, to Exclude Evidence and Argument that JPL Had a Right to Interfere with Coppedge’s Political Activities. We’ve already discussed JPL-Caltech’s opposition to the original Coppedge motion here. Coppedge’s had claimed that this will confuse the issues, mislead the jury, and cause him undue prejudice. He says he had the right to make political speeches and hand out flyers, and it’s unfair for JPL-Caltech to deny him that right and then mention his activities at the trial.
Opposing that motion, JPL-Caltech had said:
Caltech has never argued that it had a “right” to interfere with Coppedge’s political activities, nor does it plan to do so at trial. As Caltech has maintained throughout this lawsuit, it disciplined Coppedge because of the manner of his speech, without regard to the content thereof. Caltech does have the right, indeed the obligation, to regulate employee conduct in the workplace, to prevent unwelcome, offensive and/or disruptive conduct, and that is all Caltech sought to do here.
Now, defending his original motion, Coppedge repeats that his motions “are brought to facilitate the smooth delivery of relevant and not unduly prejudicial evidence at trial” and he also repeats the argument we described above — that the manner of the discussions complained of can be discussed without getting into the actual contents on those discussions.
It’s obvious that the only subject Coppedge wants to be fully explored at trial is creationism. His other behavior will be prejudicial.
The next item is Coppedge’s response to JPL’s Opposition to Coppedge’s Motion in Limine #4, to Exclude References to 3rd Parties with an interest in the trial’s outcome. We extensively discussed JPL’s opposition to the original motion in our last post. 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.”
Opposing that original motion, JPL-Caltech had argued that such information is relevant to show the bias of Coppedge’s witnesses (e.g., DeWolf is paid by the Discovery Institute) and the bias of Coppedge himself in promoting intelligent design.
Now, defending his original motion, Coppedge again repeats that his motions “are brought to facilitate the smooth delivery of relevant and not unduly prejudicial evidence at trial” and he then argues:
On the eve of trial JPL now collaterally injects a charge of sham litigation or malicious prosecution against Coppedge. But this court’s summary judgment denial established that Coppedge’s discrimination lawsuit has enough merit to warrant a jury trial. That ruling means there was “probable cause” for Coppedge’s complaint.
JPL’s claim that Coppedge’s lawsuit is aimed primarily at obtaining publicity for intelligent design theory is a covert charge of both sham litigation and attorney misconduct in bringing a frivolous case. … The court’s denial of JPL’s motion for summary judgment defeats JPL’s covert charge.
Evidence about Coppedge’s “true motivations,” or the motivations of the organizations assisting Coppedge with the litigation, could be admissible if these “motivations” were at all relevant. The motivations are not relevant, however, because this lawsuit stands on its own merits.
There’s more to that one, so you might want to read it all. JPL-Caltech seems to have struck a nerve by insisting on bringing in the motives of the Discoveroids and the Alliance Defense Fund. This is a real issue, which JPL doesn’t actually need to win in order to justify its handling of Coppedge, but it would certainly be helpful. The judge should have fun deciding it.
The last of the latest pleadings is Coppedge’s response to JPL’s Opposition to Coppedge’s Motion in Limine #5, to Exclude Testimony of JPL’s Economist. We discussed JPL-Caltech’s opposition to the original Coppedge motion here. 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.
As before, we’ll ignore this one. It’s a straightforward legal question which is probably standard stuff in a wrongful termination case. Go ahead and read it if you’re interested.
So there you are. It’s all up to the judge now. Will this be a routine two-day trial about a discharged employee, whom the employer claims was properly demoted and fired because he was a creep, or will it be a month-long mess about an alleged conspiracy by godless materialist scientists to suppress the truth of Oogity Boogity?
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