Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech: Continued Again

When we last posted about this case, the trial was scheduled to start Wednesday, two days ago. A quick check at the courthouse file reveals that the trial has been continued. We don’t yet know why or for how long.

This lawsuit was filed by David Coppedge, the creationist who claims he was wrongfully demoted (and later fired) by his employer because he was promoting Intelligent Design (ID) on the job. As you recall, 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.

The judge has not yet ruled on the numerous motions in limine that were pending. We summarized all of those here: Pre-Trial Perspective, and that post also has a load of background information for those of you who haven’t been following this case.

We’ll summarize the latest pleadings available, thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), who maintain an archive of pleadings in this case: NCSE’s Coppedge archive. These are all scans of pdf files.

The first is yet another motion in limine. This one was filed by JPL-Caltech. It’s Defendant’s motion to exclude testimony, evidence, argument, and comment about the contents of NASA’s guidelines on religious exercise and expression in the federal workplace. They want such evidence kept out of the trial because it’s irrelevant and will be prejudicial to Caltech and misleading to the jury. That makes perfect sense to us. NASA is a federal agency, and neither Caltech nor JPL has that status.

The motion says that the parties had previously agreed to leave that stuff out, but the Coppedge team has recently changed its mind, thus this motion. The bold font was added by us:

Caltech does not seek to exclude relevant evidence concerning transmission or discussion of the Federal Guidelines that occurred in this case, such as testimony that Coppedge gave copies of the Federal Guidelines to Caltech employees in meetings, before he learned that they do not apply to employees of private employers, like Caltech.

At various points in this litigation, Coppedge has contended that the Federal Guidelines apply to Caltech. But Coppedge is mistaken. On its face, the Federal Guidelines apply only to federal employees of the United States Government. … Coppedge admits that he was employed by Caltech [transcript reference]. Furthermore, Coppedge admits that Caltech is a private, non-profit educational institution which manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory pursuant to a contract with NASA [transcript reference]. Therefore, the Federal Guidelines and its contents do not apply to Caltech and are irrelevant.

For some reason, the word “clueless” keeps running through our mind, but we can’t figure out why. Anyway, the next new pleading by JPL-Caltech is their Defendant’s Trial Brief. A partial listing from the table of contents will be sufficient to reveal that there’s a bit more to this case than one might learn only by reading the press releases issued by the Coppedge team. Here’s a sample:

Coppedge’s Work History and Performance Issues

A Member of Cassini Complained That Coppedge Had Harassed Her [about non work-related subjects]

When Chin [a supervisor] Tried To Approach Coppedge (Again), Coppedge Accused Him of Creating a Hostile Work Environment

Chin Notified HR [Human Resources] and Management about Coppedge’s Accusation; Human Resources Investigated and Recommended that Coppedge Receive a Written Warning

Coppedge Received a Written Warning and Was Removed as Lead

Coppedge Appealed the Written Warning and His Removal as Lead; Klenk Reviewed All the Facts and Denied the Appeal

Coppedge Filed this Lawsuit

Coppedge Was Laid Off as Part of the Staff Reduction for the Second Extended Mission [NASA had reduced their funding by 40%-50%]

This is slightly different from the way the Coppedge team sees this case (i.e., it’s all about an evil conspiracy by Big Science to suppress intelligent design).

The last pleading at the NCSE archive is a Second Amended Joint Trial Exhibit List. Each party’s proposed exhibits also indicate those items that are subject to objections. We won’t bother with it because it’s 47-pages long, and at this stage the list means nothing. It’ll be amended yet again when all the pending motions in limine (regarding what’s allowed in the trial and what’s excluded) are resolved.

So there you are. The big news is that the trial has been delayed again. We don’t yet have a new trial date. It’s conceivable that even now the parties might settle this mess, but having gone this far, we don’t think it’s likely that either side is in the mood for compromise.

The Discoveroids have recently posted a few times about the trial, and we’ll look at what they have to say. If we find anything especially amusing therein, we’ll let you know.

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

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12 responses to “Coppedge v. JPL & Caltech: Continued Again

  1. Welcome back. That sounds strange; this is your blog, not mine.

    Anyway, The Patch has been covering this. The dirth of information on this matter has been driving me crazy.

  2. Rubble says: “The dirth of information on this matter has been driving me crazy.”

    I’ve seen a blog or two that says the trial is starting Monday, but that information isn’t posted at the court’s site, and I’m relying only on that and the NCSE archive. Most blogs and “news” articles are just repeating press releases from the Coppedge team. Maybe something will show up over the weekend.

  3. So far, JPL has followed Doc Bill’s “reasonable corporate behavior” in documenting everything!

    Coppedge had such a history of being a jackass that his two biggest customers wouldn’t have him on their site. Not a good thing.

    I was surprised, though, to read that the trial was still being decided as a jury trial or a judge ruling. I thought from the outset that a jury trial was in the offing.

    Either way, however, I think someone is going to get EXPELLED!

  4. Doc, it looks like it will be a bench trial.

    IANAL but that looks like it will simplify matters. The judge need not rule on all motions in advance of the trial; he can simply rule as needed by plaintiff and defense actions.

    OTOH that may work to Coppedge’s advantage. The defense’s objections of “confusing the jury” and the like will probably be weakened, if not eliminated by a bench trial. For example, the judge may well see the videos as possibly relevant, and will therefore view the videos before ruling on their admissibility.

  5. Since Coppedge’s behavior at JPL is now a matter of public record, it will be very difficult for him to find another meaningful job. Imagine a recruiter or HR rep googling his name…

    Maybe the Discoveroids will move him up to Seattle and give him a job maintaining their network. After all, they played a major part in getting him into this mess. It would be the honorable thing to do.

    Oh, yeah. Never mind.

  6. I dunno. Considering what Coppedge did to Curmudgeon’s network …

    I have been mulling over the “clueless” angle and having dealt with these morons for decades there is one characteristic that stands out more than clueless: the need to be right, always.

    Creationists never admit fault. Go down the line and mentally review the careers of our favorite creationist morons: Dembski, Behe, Meyers, Wise, Brown, Morris, Hovind, Hambo, etc. How many of them have ever changed a single viewpoint?

    Coppedge’s problems didn’t stem so much from being clueless (although that could be argued) rather than from stubbornness. He simply wouldn’t let the matter drop. If you read how his supervisor tried to coach him on interpersonal behavior and communication, to no avail, you get the impression of a guy who is “always right.” Of course Coppedge believed he didn’t harass anybody because he’s always right! Of course the issue is about hostility to ID and not his jackassedness because he’s always right! Of course JPL made a mistake laying him off because he was The Most Senior and Valuable router wrangler in the West!

    Google “narcissistic personality disorder” and see how well that shoe fits.

    Doc Bill’s prediction (it’s so easy!) is that after the judge rules in favor of JPL on all counts the DI will howl “activist judge” and bemoan the “fact” that the trial was “thrown” by the powerful, influential Darwinist Lobby.

  7. Doc Bill: “I have been mulling over the “clueless” angle and having dealt with these morons for decades there is one characteristic that stands out more than clueless: the need to be right, always. Creationists never admit fault.”
    It’s not just creationists. That same mindset is typical of, and maybe the cause of, 9/11 “truthers,” birthers, JFK conspiracy-theorists, and etc, etc. It’s normal human nature to not want to admit fault- but this seems to me like a subset that takes it to the extreme of not being able to. They’re on the same road as, and only a step away from being, the Time-Cube guy. Inability to admit they might be wrong is not, to them, a bug in their thinking porcess- it’s a necessary feature of it. Their certainty comes from Revealed Knowledge, which is antithetical to any process of actual, tedious, scientific “looking at evidence.” They just “know.” And facts won’t make a dent in that.

  8. An Alcatraz of the Mind: What the Coppedge Trial Will Show
    David Klinghoffer March 8, 2012 1:45 PM

  9. David, the trial will show that Coppedge is an ass, shoving it upon his co-workers, and suffering the consequences.

  10. @David: So JPL is a prison now? But Coppedge wants to stay there? Whaaaat?!?!
    How about this. Klinghoffer has built one of the worst strawmen I’ve ever seen. Mind you, based on his previous writings, that’s all he’s capable of writing. Spares him from having to deal with reality. If you’re going to spam us with creationist links, at least make it interesting. Everything you’ve sent so far has been boooooooring.

  11. David says: “An Alcatraz of the Mind: What the Coppedge Trial Will Show”

    Yeah, I’ll get to that one.

  12. I worked with a guy who was like Kevin on 30 Rock but a real Thumper. One evening we were working late on some code and I found an obvious error I should have caught hours earlier. “Well, f%$* me!” I exclaimed. The guy looked up and said, “You shouldn’t curse so much.” At first I was miffed and considered a quick FU but instead I said, “Look, it’s a simple Anglo-Saxon word used as an emphatic expletive. Makes me feel better. Like sneezing.” He suggested that like a sneeze he should bless me. After we got that cleared up we got along swimmingly. All night it was “F me!” and “Bless you!”

    And, yes, I was that pedantic in my younger days. I have mellowed as anybody with half a brain can tell. Bless you in advance.