Coppedge Trial: Second Week Begins

The trial presumably resumes today, with Coppedge still on the stand. After his performance, which will be followed by cross-examination, he has a few other witnesses listed, but we don’t think they’re JPL employees.

The big news this morning is that for the first time since we’ve been writing about this case we found an article by a reputable outfit that isn’t based solely on propaganda and handouts from the Coppedge team, so we highly recommend this at the Time Magazine website: Legal Smackdown: NASA, Religion and Intelligent Design. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

It’s been a long time since I graduated law school and was admitted to the bar, and I’ve surely forgotten more than I remember. But here’s one bit of legal street-smarts I’ve retained: if you’re a plaintiff filing a trial brief, you may not want to write it as if it were a screenplay — and then admit that you’re making stuff up. That’s just one of the curious wrinkles in the case of David Coppedge, the plaintiff in an ongoing courtroom smackdown that also involves NASA, religious freedom, workplace decorum and the origins of life.

The reporter, Jeffrey Kluger, went to law school! He’s read the pleadings so he knows what he’s talking about. That’s quite a rarity in the coverage of this litigation. He says:

Coppedge, [JPL argues], was harassing his co-workers by pushing his intelligent design video on them and engaging in unwelcome arguments about the origins of life. He is also alleged to have made coworkers uncomfortable with his overbearing conversations about his support for Proposition 8 — California’s anti-same sex marriage amendment — and his belief that the JPL holiday party ought to be renamed a Christmas party. He was, according to his former superiors, reprimanded and told to confine such discussions to the lunch hour or other free time. Coppedge, according to those same superiors, responded by alleging a “hostile work environment.”

Yes, we know, but we don’t hear much of that from the creationist side of this dispute. Let’s read on:

A reading of the trial briefs and other filings, available on the NCSE website [Coppedge v. JPL archive], make a strong argument for JPL as the more temperate party, and Coppedge as a provocateur and — not to put too fine a point on it — a pain. JPL’s defense is manifold: Coppedge, it says, had long been a subject of complaints by coworkers, and Greg Chin, his supervisor, had received reports “from at least fifteen project members about Coppedge, focusing on his uncooperative attitude and poor listening and interpersonal skills, which contributed to issues about his technical performance.”

Poor Coppedge. He’s so misunderstood. We continue:

The [JPL trial] brief’s supporting evidence does a fair job of backing up its claims that Coppedge was prickly at best and confrontational at worst. … Most critically, JPL argues that it was at no point seeking to control the content of Coppedge’s religious or political communications with his colleagues, but rather his conduct in expressing those views. That, of course, is the critical Constitutional distinction that allows employers to maintain decorum without trampling the First Amendment.

Here’s one more excerpt, and then you’re on your own:

Far more bizarre is Coppedge’s inclusion [in his trial brief] of a three-page “screenplay” dramatizing his interactions with one of the complaining coworkers, including such dialogue as “I’m so uncomfortable with David approaching me about watching an intelligent design DVD and talking about my stance on Proposition 8.” The coworker then, in the “screenplay” version of the incident, sobs.

It is not a legal leap to suggest that none of this helps Coppedge’s case. Nor does his footnote to the scene, which concedes “Some liberties have been taken with the dialogue and action as artistic license.” Legal briefs, of course, are not typically the place for artistic anything — especially license.

Okay, that’s enough. Now click over to Time to read it all. This is the first good article about this case that we’ve seen from the media, so you won’t want to miss it.

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

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27 responses to “Coppedge Trial: Second Week Begins

  1. Forgive me for mixing metaphors, but:

    Is it just me, or has Coppedge just pounded a coffin nail, or 12, into his foot with his presenting a screenplay dramatization? I mean, if his credibility wasn’t already questionable before, the screenplay is the clincher.

  2. The bigger question is the competence and sanity of Coppedge’s legal advisers for putting a “theatrical” work in their legal brief. What were they thinking?

    It’s further proof that Creationism and delusion go hand in hand.

  3. Agree with longshadow. Maybe such stunts were client-ordered and this is one of the reasons Becker seems angry/frustrated?

  4. Hilarious stuff

  5. I can’t wait to read Klinghoffer’s reposte. He cannot let something like this pass, especially when it appears on the Time Magazine science page.

    I love Kluger’s line in his last paragraph…“It’s true enough that employers and colleagues in a science-based workplace might be uncomfortable with the idea of a coworker who believes in intelligent design. But neither the Constitution nor employee-protection laws can regulate feelings… So true.

  6. Which filing is this screenplay in?

  7. Tomato Addict

    There is a rather agreeable Creationist posting comments:

    Dan Bruce: “As for creation, I believe that God created everything, and I also have no reason to distrust the current scientific theory of creation. It does not contradict the Bible.”

  8. @Nicholas…

    The filing is here…the screenplay begins on page 4

  9. I’m hoping that someone will parody his play. It would be classic.

  10. Tomato Addict

    @Ed: That’s quite the little melodrama Coppedge envisions himself part of. I wonder if he knows it has been done before?

  11. @TA – was the “been done before” intended as a link?

  12. Tomato Addict

    Oops. Yes. One of these days I’ll get it right.

  13. Coppedge as a provocateur and — not to put too fine a point on it — a pain…

    …about Coppedge…his uncooperative attitude and poor listening and interpersonal skills…

    …Coppedge was prickly at best and confrontational at worst…

    But, but, but Klinghoffer said he’s shy, quiet, and unassuming. LOL.

  14. Jack Hogan: “But, but, but Klinghoffer said he’s shy, quiet, and unassuming. LOL.”

    But at least has the courage to take the stand. I can hear the sound of someone outside, holding a doll and a vise, screaming “please, don’t make me go in there!”

  15. Tomato Addict

    There is a reporter that appears to be on the scene, if not inside the courtroom:

    Investigating …

  16. Tomato Addict

    This JUST in …

    Lawyers in the JPL wrongful termination suit, have gone into Judge Ernest Hiroshige’s chambers #Monkeytrial2</blockquote)

    The hash tag doesn't quite fit, but I sort of like it anyway.

  17. Tomato Addict

    fixing the internet

    5 minutes ago @JBrianCharles writes: David Coppedge acknowledges giving JPL co-workers fliers supporting Proposition 8 in the days leading up to the November 2008 election.

  18. What is a shame is that there are many people of faith working in science fields who go about their work quietly and respect others around them.

  19. Yep, Brian Charles is tweeting from the courtroom. So far, nothing new. Coppedge acts like a coppedge. Film at 11.

  20. That didn’t take long. Klinghoffer responds to the Time article…

    He thinks this trial may last five weeks. Five weeks? He hopes. He hopes. The Dover trial lasted just over five weeks. I think there was a lot more going on in the Dover trial than here.

  21. I hope it is finished soon.

  22. I’ve taken a few liberties (none of them religious) with the “screenplay” proffered by Coppedge and Becker in Plaintiff’s Trial Brief filed in Dec 2011 to give what “might have been” a different perspective on events leading up to the trial. As parody and opinion, it makes no claim as to the factual accuracy of events. No real effort was made to structure this as a viable screenplay. Any resemblance to the actual train of events is purely coincidental. (Apologies for it’s length)

    COPPEDGE enters CHIN’S office.
    CHIN: Hi, David. I’ve been getting complaints about your treatment of customers and co-workers. I was wondering if you could refrain from broaching sensitive subjects while on the job. I am willing to coach you on it.
    COPPEDGE (annoyed): I disagree with your position on it and on every A.S.S.-inine interpretation of Cassini data. I challenge you to a debate. The parking lot. 3 o’clock.
    CHIN: Is there anything I can say to change your mind?
    COPPEDGE: No, for the Bible tells me not to.
    COPPEDGE eats shoots and leaves.

    CHIN: Hi, David. I’m sorry to inform you that you’re part of a general layoff involving several employees due to budget cutbacks. JPL is making job placement services available. Would you like to participate?
    COPPEDGE: Sure, as long as it doesn’t cut into my time maintaining my Creationist website, guiding Creation Safaris, illustrating media at Illustra Media, etc.

    DAVID is writing up blog entries on how evo-blinded scientists are wedded to their sacrosanct A.S.S., stopping occasionally to admire the way he came up with the acronym ‘A.S.S.’ But upon reflecting upon events at JPL over the last several months, he becomes increasingly distressed. The complaints were really about religion! The demotion was really about religion! The layoff was really about…religion! How heavy-handed and repetitive can I perceive JPL to get?
    HIS DVD-LENDING LIST. He notices a pattern forming. Wha?? His co-workers’ lack of appreciation for the considerate comments next to each of their names. Their weak principles blinding them to the truth. What the …?

    Morning at the Becker Law Firm. COPPEDGE moves urgently through the corridors. Out of breath, reaches BECKER’S office.
    BECKER: Hi, David. What’s up? You look like you’ve seen a ghost or zombie Jesus.
    COPPEDGE: I saw a ghost alright. A spectre of religious persecution!
    BECKER: Come again?
    COPPEDGE: CHIN ordered me to stop exercising my free speech rights about matters I know I’m right about, and … and –
    BECKER: Take a chill pill, David. Tell me what happened. Show me on this doll where you felt violated.
    COPPEDGE: It was … horrible. I have an impressive title at Illustra Media. I brave the perils of Creation Safaris. I run a Creationist website almost 24/7, you know. CHIN didn’t care when he’d crossed the line suppressing my freedom of speech in the workplace. I’ve had it with him. I’m so uncomfortable with CHIN having approached me about watching how I treat customers and talking about my lack of awareness in pushing my religiously motivated political, scientific and office party views on an unwilling audience. I couldn’t deal with him on these kinds of issues. And (headache ensues) …
    BECKER: There, there. Would you like a hot beverage?
    COPPEDGE: … and there was my Red Streamline Stapler on his desk. He always borrows it and never gives it back and – I think he was trying to create a hostile work environment. I don’t want JPL to get away with suppressing my freedom of speech on religious grounds on company time ever again. I cant stand for it. I just cant!
    BECKER: Well, I’ll look into it. Let me know when you want to sue JPL for religious discrimination.
    COPPEDGE: You know, I have an impressive title at Illustra Media. I brave the perils of Creation Safaris. I run a Creationist website almost 24/7, and I’m a member of …


  23. Let’s see, who has the larger readership, the Disco Tute creationist whine and cheesy blog or Time Magazine?

    Hmmmmmmmmm …

    Nice try, Klinkerklunker, but I don’t think the World heard you!

  24. Klingo complains about Time magazine’s Kluger trying the case and then proceeds to try the case. Typical. However, he and the DI was stung by the article. It’s tough when someone in the media presents the facts and not the DI spin that the DI has been sending everyone.

  25. venturefree

    I predict that if the judge rules against Coppedge, we’ll see years of claims that the judge is a Darwinist Ideologue who didn’t even listen to the testimony because he had already made up his mind the second he heard the term “Intelligent Design.” This will be accompanied by repeated posts of all of the evidence that the judge clearly ignored which proves that he never even glanced at the actual facts of the case.

  26. but I think there are going to be a lot of creationists who want to distance themselves from this trial

  27. I’m thinking the cretards are going to associate with it and claim
    additional blind sci and discrimination.

    Personally, I think Coppedge has already lost before the defense pulls up a
    single witness or starts cross.