More than a month ago we wrote Coppedge Trial: Crickets Chirping. Although the trial ended on 16 April — six months ago — we still don’t have the court’s decision in 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.
It’s not like we’re waiting for an opinion from some appellate court. We know those can take months. What we’ve been looking for is the trial court’s decision in an employment case. It seems to us that this is taking an incredible amount of time for what ought to be a routine piece of business for the court system.
Since our last post the news media haven’t written about the case, and the Discoveroids haven’t blogged about it for quite some time. While we’re sitting around twiddling our thumbs, perhaps we could use this lull to consider what the past six months have meant to the parties.
First, JPL: For the past half-year, they’ve been able to conduct their affairs without the presence of what they regarded as a troublesome employee, one whom they let go in a downsizing because they thought his computer skills had become outmoded. They’re rid of Coppedge and presumably they don’t miss him. The press hasn’t provided much coverage of the trial, and we may have missed or forgotten something, but we don’t recall anything about any JPL employee who testified in Coppedge’s favor. So from JPL’s point of view, other than some time their employees had to spend in court, the last six months have been just fine.
But what’s it been like for Coppedge? He still has his creationist website, but as far as we know he’s been unemployed. Maybe he’s done some speaking and computer work from time to time, and maybe he’s being subsidized by those sympathetic to his cause, but we don’t know about such things. From our limited information, the past six months haven’t been good for Coppedge, and he’s got to deal with the anxiety of wondering what the court is going to do.
Then there are the lawyers. We assume the lawyers for JPL (and Caltech) are getting paid, so they’re not suffering. On the Coppedge side of things, the Alliance Defense Fund (recently renamed the Alliance Defending Freedom) is — or was — involved, but they don’t officialy appear of record. On court pleadings, Coppedge’s lawyer is always William J. Becker, Jr. We don’t know what the arrangement is with Becker.
There are some well-funded groups that promote causes like Coppedge’s, so Becker may be getting some contributions from somewhere, but we have no information about that and no reason to speculate. Presumably he won’t be paid except out of the recovery he hopes to win from JPL. For the moment he’s put in a lot of time and effort and our guess is that has nothing to show for it. He’ll be well rewarded if the judge rules in his favor; but before payday there will likely be an appeal.
So where does that leave things? JPL and its lawyers are doing fine, while Coppedge and his lawyer are (we imagine) less okay — at least for now. But everything could change when the opinion comes down. Whichever side wins the trial, the parties could decide to settle in order to avoid an appeal. That would mean the Coppedge side will end up with something for all their trouble. Or the parties could remain stubborn and the case can go through at least one appeal, and then perhaps another to the Supreme Court of California.
We have no idea how things will end, but we suspect that time is not on Coppedge’s side. He certainly couldn’t have found the past six months enjoyable, and regardless of what the trial judge does, appeals can eat up at least another year. Meanwhile, the crickets continue to chirp.
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