David Coppedge Trial: Decision Next Week?

We’re still waiting for the judge’s decision in the trial of the suit 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.

Our last post on this topic was David Coppedge Trial: JPL’s Defense Brief. That tells you all you need to know at this point, but whenever a news article appears, we take a look at it.

In our humble opinion the press coverage of this controversy has been almost entirely inaccurate, repeating the standard misinformation that Coppedge worked for NASA (he didn’t), that the trial was about intelligent design (it wasn’t — Coppedge’s DVDs were excluded from the trial), and that Coppedge was some kind of scientist (he wasn’t) involved in exploring Saturn and its moons (he explored nothing — his job was to maintain JPL’s computer networks). [Addendum: Becker says the DVDs weren’t excluded.]

Despite the media’s dismal performance, we can’t help looking for news stories. What we found today is no exception to what we’ve seen before, but it’s worth a look anyway. We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Fired JPL worker seeks $1.36M, which appears in the Pasadena Sun located in La Cañada Flintridge, California — where JPL is located. The bold font was added by us:

A man claiming he lost his job at Jet Propulsion Laboratory because he voiced support for the theory of intelligent design of the universe is seeking $1.36 million from the NASA lab, according to court papers filed as the case winds down.

Coppedge wants $1.36 million. BWAHAHAHAHAHA! And observe that this reporter still gives the impression that the claim is against NASA. They just can’t get that out of their heads. Ah well, let’s continue:

David Coppedge, a former lead systems administrator on the Cassini project to Saturn, is seeking $860,000 for lost wages and $500,000 for emotional distress damages.

There’s another unfortunately common press error. They refer to Coppedge as “a former lead systems administrator on the Cassini project to Saturn.” That wording is grotesquely misleading. They write about the guy as if he were Wernher von Braun. The truth is somewhat different. Coppedge had (and then lost) what was little more than an honorary title of “team lead,” but it was in his role as a computer technician. He maintained computer networks for the Cassini project, and the same task could have been performed for a chain of fast food restaurants. As far as his computer work was concerned, Saturn could have been a pizza topping instead of a planet. Let’s read on:

At trial in March and April, attorneys for Coppedge claimed his discussions of intelligent design with co-workers led to discipline that improperly curtailed his speech rights and amounted to religious discrimination.

Yes, so they claimed. We continue:

JPL attorneys, in a final round of briefs filed to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige in May, say Coppedge was a problem employee who failed to prove his case at trial and is entitled to no compensation.

M’god — a reporter read one of the pleadings! Here’s more:

[Judge] Hiroshige is expected to issue a ruling by June 8.

Aha, that’s news! It may or my not be accurate, but it’s something we hadn’t heard before.

The rest of the article is stuff we already know, but go ahead and read it if you need a refresher. We did, and we’ve learned two things: (1) The press is still confused about what Coppedge’s job was and who he’s suing. (2) We may get a decision as early as next Friday.

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

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16 responses to “David Coppedge Trial: Decision Next Week?

  1. Curmudgeon: “In our humble opinion the press coverage of this controversy has been almost entirely inaccurate, repeating the standard misinformation…”

    You’re one of the few on these boards who can appreciate it, but I must say “Darn liberal media.”

  2. Jack Hogan

    @Frank J .. You’re one of the few on these boards who can appreciate it, but I must say “Darn liberal media.”

    I doubt Chris Mathews understands evolution any better than Ken Ham does.

  3. William Becker

    The DVDs were admitted, Einstein. Nice job.

  4. William Becker says: “The DVDs were admitted, Einstein. Nice job.”

    We never saw the ruling on that motion in limine, so when you waived the jury I just assumed it went against you. I’ll repay the compliment, maybe, after we see how the judge’s decision turns out.

  5. Hi, William Becker. In what class in law school did you learn to dramatize events as a screenplay?

  6. Wow! As I’ve said, SC, you’re in the big time! Your website is so popular that even the lawyers of your posts are leaving comments. That’s assuming that’s who he really is… something tells me that the actual lawyer wouldn’t be so stupid so as to leave such a… compliment.
    Wait, what am I saying? Someone who allows a screenplay to be used as evidence? Oh, I guess anything is possible.

  7. will Fraser


  8. Gary says: “the actual lawyer wouldn’t be so stupid so as to leave such a… compliment.”

    I don’t mind being corrected. As for the way it’s done, that’s just a matter of style.

  9. SC said: “As for the way it’s done, that’s just a matter of style.”
    Or lack of it.

  10. Jack Hogan

    Mr. Becker seems a bit touchy. I wonder why.

  11. Spector567

    Curmudgeon is there anyway you can confirm that was indeed becker or a reasonable chance of it being becker via his IP.

    I find it hard to believe a lawyer would be silly enough to comment on an open case via a blog, let alone one that actively disagreed with him.

  12. Spector567 asks: “Curmudgeon is there anyway you can confirm that was indeed becker”

    Not really. His firm listing doesn’t provide an email address, and the IP number associated with the comment doesn’t come from LA, so it may have been him, or maybe not. Doesn’t matter.

  13. Workin' Mama

    hummm, speaking of getting facts straight? Let’s try adding some clarification. One, David Coppedge was never “FIRED”, David Coppedge was laid-off, as was 40 percent of the Cassini workforce. Further, these lay offs were fully expected by the entire workforce as the mission moved from one phase to another. Add to that that ANYONE working on a NASA mission knows full well going in that these phased layoffs (just as ramp ups) happen throughout the life of every mission. Two, Jet Propulsion Laboratory is indeed owned by Caltech, however the funding comes from NASA in the form of contracts and Cassini is in fact funded totally by NASA and is considered to be owned by NASA with instruments on board that are run by several different countries. David Coppedge never ran JPL networks, he worked on the Cassini networks and even that he never did exclusively, but with the efforts of other SAs. The “Team Lead” position that is referred to by all was and is basically a clerical position of scheduling the SAs. It’s doubtful that David Coppedge’s behavior toward his fellow workers would be tolerated anywhere other than JPL. JPL is known for being an international workplace. People from over 20 countries work at JPL, heck the place even has an “international night” where the employees bring in foods from their native country. Religion of others isn’t just “tolerated” at JPL, with the exception of a few individuals like David Coppedge, religious differences are respected. It is most unfortunate for David Becker and others who believe in ID that they chose David Coppedge as their martyr. A man who never exhibited a single virtue of Christianity in the workplace.

  14. Never underestimate the power of a scientifically illiterate press to muck up the story. Surely the DI and Coppedge were feeding them B.S., so then why didn’t the press actually try to find out the truth and report same? Sad.

  15. will Fraser

    Why Einstein? Why not Dawkins or Sagan or,,,,

  16. Spector567

    Dawkins and Sagan are either alive or haven’t been dead long enough.
    Making them harder to quote mine.