The last time we wrote about the Coppedge case, we told you there would be A Slight Delay in seeing the court’s final decision. As you know, this is 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.
On 31 October the court asked JPL-Caltech’s lawyers to write up a final order in JPL’s favor, and that hasn’t yet been completed. Meanwhile, Coppedge has requested an extremely detailed Statement of Decision listing 68 specific items he wants discussed in the decision document. We described that in our last post. Now, JPL has responded to that request.
You can see JPL’s response at the archive maintained by our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), located here: NCSE’s Coppedge archive. The latest pleading is Defendant JPL-Caltech’s Response to Plaintiff Coppedge’s Request for Statement of Decision (pdf file). It says, with some bold font added for emphasis:
Defendant California Institute of Technology (“Defendant”) provides this response to Plaintiff David Coppedge’s (“Plaintiff”) Request for Statement of Decision (“Request”) as a courtesy to the Court and Plaintiff, not as an acknowledgement that Plaintiff’s Request was either procedurally or substantively appropriate. In fact, as Defendant explains below, it was neither.
Well! That’s a very classy way of saying: “Coppedge’s latest pleading is totally off-the-wall!” Then, after quoting the court’s tentative order that there will be a ruling for JPL-Caltech on all causes of action, which the Defendant’s lawyers should prepare “based on the arguments and points and authorities presented in the final arguments (oral and written) of the Defendants which are adopted by this reference as the rationale for this ruling,” they say:
Under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 632, “[t]he court shall issue a statement of decision explaining the factual and legal basis for its decision as to each of the principal controverted issues at trial upon the request of any party appearing at the trial.” (emphasis added). … Absent further direction from the Court, Defendant believes it is not required to include any other content in its Proposed Statement of Decision, and it does not intend to do so.
Pretty strong, huh? Let’s read on:
Second, Plaintiff’s Request is procedurally improper. The California Rules of Court present as alternatives a Court-ordered Proposed Statement of Decision prepared by a party or one prepared by the Court at the request of a party. … The Court has ordered Defendant to prepare a Proposed Statement of Decision, meaning the Court does not have to prepare a proposed Statement of Decision in response to Plaintiff’s request. To the extent Plaintiff disagrees with the content of Defendant’s Proposed Statement, his method of expressing that disagreement is through objections.
In other words, Coppedge’s request is not only off-the-wall, it’s outlandish, way-out, and totally bizarre. JPL’s response continues:
Plaintiff does not have a right to disregard the Court’s order, ask the Court to discard the Defendant’s Proposed Statement of Decision, and demand that the Court prepare one addressing the topics that happen to interest him.
The whole thing is really good, but we can’t type it all. Here’s one more excerpt:
Third, … the “issues” Plaintiff listed in his Request go far beyond what is reasonably or appropriately included in a Statement of Decision, let alone what the Rules permit. … A large number of the sixty-eight items listed in Plaintiff’s Request do not concern issues at all — much less principal controverted ones — but rather, dredge up individual points of evidence or factual matters that were not addressed to Plaintiff’s satisfaction at trial.
Put simply, Plaintiff cannot commandeer the Statement of Decision as a way to re-try his case.
Sounds good. In the final paragraph they say this:
In sum, Defendant shall proceed with preparing the Proposed Statement of Decision, at the Court’s direction, and without regard to Plaintiff’s improper and legally baseless Request.
We don’t need to say anything. JPL’s pleading speaks for itself. But what will the judge do? Nobody knows. Stay tuned to this blog.
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