David Coppedge’s Last Stand?

The new batch of pleadings we told you about (see Meanwhile, in the David Coppedge Case …) has now been posted at the archive maintained by our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), located here: NCSE’s Coppedge archive.

As you know, this is the tail-end 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.

The eight new pleadings from Coppedge are really only two pleadings, because the first one is in seven parts. It begins here: Plaintiff’s Objection to JPL’s Proposed Statement of Decision, 1. That’s a 35-page pdf file. It begins like this:

Pursuant to [a court rule and a procedure rule] Plaintiff David Coppedge (“Coppedge”) hereby submits its Objections to Defendant’s Proposed Statement of Decision, identifying the paragraph number of each section as to which objection is made, the proposed finding of fact or conclusion of law and evidence upon which Defendant relies and Plaintiff’s objection, specifying that the proposed finding of fact or conclusion of law proposed by Defendant fails to resolve a controverted issue by either omitting relevant and material evidence or because of ambiguity.

The remainder of this pleading, and from our hasty preview, all seven pleadings of which this is part 1, appear to be a point-by-point, witness-by-witness re-argument of the entire trial. Looking at Part 1, all of the remaining pages are a series of objections to each paragraph of JPL’s proposed order, starting with paragraph 7. We assume the first six paragraphs are okay because they identify the parties, the court’s jurisdiction, and other non-disputed matters.

Paragraph 7 of the proposed order merely states (with transcript references) that Coppedge had originally been promoted to “Team Lead” primarily because of his longevity on the job. Coppedge’s objection to that — to that! — goes on for pages, detailing his splendid skills, his trustworthiness, etc. Verily, a man for all seasons!

Moving on to paragraph 8, that part of the proposed order says that the team lead role was an unofficial position and involved a limited set of administrative tasks. Coppedge’s objections to that paragraph start on page 5 and continue through page 12. This is really amazing! He says that being a team lead was a post of “significant importance.” Furthermore:

Being stripped of the title of Team Lead in the celebrated Cassini space exploration project was a humiliation far more substantial than it might be in a private company away from public view.

This is very exciting stuff, but seriously, dear reader, although we’re devoted to reporting about this case, we don’t intend to slog through this whole mess. However, we’ll stick with it a while and scan a bit more.

Starting on page 15, paragraph 11 of the proposed order mentions that Coppedge approached Margaret Weisenfelder about Proposition 8 (the California referendum on gay marriage) “in a manner that made her feel uncomfortable and judged.” Coppedge objects to that because he says her reaction was to the content of his message, not his manner, and of course the content is protected speech for which he shouldn’t be punished. Incredibly, the objection to that paragraph goes on for five pages.

Are you getting the impression that Coppedge is merely re-arguing the whole trial, all over again? That’s our impression. But what’s the point? The judge already sat through everything, and he’s said how he’s going to rule. It seems rather futile to go through it all over again. Surely the court rules weren’t intended to allow for this. We can understand (to use a hypothetical example) that in a patent dispute, if the losing party is described in the proposed order as a “base-born scoundrel,” an objection might be appropriate — but here we’re seeing objections that the court wasn’t persuaded by Coppedge’s evidence. This can’t be the way the rules were intended to be used.

Okay, we’re continuing. On page 22 it discusses paragraph 12 of the proposed order, which says that Coppedge gave Weisenfelder an intelligent design DVD. She testified that the content didn’t bother her, but what did bother her was a post-it note on the DVD that listed other employees — with the words “Try again.” She said that “made her uncomfortable because it showed Coppedge’s persistence.” Coppedge objects to that paragraph. He claims the evidence shows the contents did bother her because she felt it was religious and inappropriate. The objection goes on for several pages, claiming that the evidence shows Coppedge was always polite, but the objections were to religious and political matters. (And of course, nothing should interfere with his freedom to promote those views at work.)

That’s enough for Part 1. Part 2 is just a cover sheet for the 83 pages of Part 3. Those 83 pages nit-pick the proposed order’s statements about witnesses Weisenfelder, Vetter, and Edington. This is about Coppedge’s desire to rename the Holiday Party as the “Christmas Party,” discussions about Proposition 8, and more peddling of his creationist DVDs. That’s it for Part 3.

Part 4 is 54 pages long. This is about the written warning that had been given to Coppedge. Coppedge’s objection is that his behavior was not objectionable. JPL’s gripe was about the message, not the messenger. Then it discusses Coppedge’s administrative objection to the warning he had been given, and his removal as team lead. Then (on page 16) it gets to the 30% layoff required by the NASA funding cutback. Coppedge says his layoff was all about religious discrimination, not his skills.

That’s enough! We’re stopping. We’ve already been through this stuff while the trial was in session, and we’re not going to deal with it again. The court heard the testimony and Coppedge didn’t prove his case. In our humble opinion, it’s too late to win now by trying to re-write the court’s final decision document so that everything is in his favor.

If we can muster up the energy, we’ll wade through the remaining pleadings in this latest Ark-load during the next day or two. If we don’t, you’re probably not missing anything.

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

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7 responses to “David Coppedge’s Last Stand?

  1. Looking over that, and realizing what it must have been like to have to work with that guy, I suggest they re-name the Holiday Party as the “Dave Coppedge Memorial Thank-God-He’s-Gone” Party.

  2. This seems like a Discotute “Director’s cut” for their version of how the trial should have gone. Perhaps they will print it up in a nice hardcover version, and title it “The Coppedge, An Unexpected Journey”. They can use it to read their kids to sleep at night.

  3. No they will just quote these court documents in there next book/blog and forget to mention that it was copp’s opinion. Not what the court said. Basically a form of pre-emptive quote mining.

  4. Being stripped of the title of Team Lead in the celebrated Cassini space exploration project was a humiliation far more substantial than it might be in a private company away from public view.

    Coppy is a legend in his own mind! His job WAS away from public view. He was a system administrator and network “watcher” buried away in a computer support group and very peripheral to the actual Cassini mission. I have been a system administrator at a research center and I know what that job entails, and it has nothing whatsoever with the actual research, rather keeping the computers running.

    However, Coppy used his “important title” to promote himself. We’ve all seen pictures of him standing proudly next to the Cassini probe mock-up as if he was the lead researcher and Space Explorer ™! He gave talks about Cassini to schools, churches and anywhere else he could flash his mug. Whatever “humiliation” Coppy suffered was purely in his own mind because I can gar-ron-tee you that nobody else in the Universe gave a rat’s patootie.

  5. Given that nothing beyond an evolving rehash of topics that have already been dealt with is presented, It would be easy for one to view this as nothing more than an excuse to create billable hours.

    But what fun is there in just brushing off such madness?

    Being demoted is embarrassing. The act of punishing someone is usually invoked with the intent of causing negative feelings in the mind of the person being punished. It’s difficult to imagine someone of D.C.’s tenure being unaware of the public profile an AS would have and in his own words (repeatedly) the “investment of trust” JPL had made in him by bestowing the title upon him in the first place. He didn’t betray their trust, they didn’t trust him enough. Sounds like an old R.Reagan speech to me.

    The attempt to re-argue his case only drives home the point that Coppedge’s repeated attempts to engage co-workers had gone beyond “discussion” and that he was actively engaged in soliciting. D.C. had either developed a sense of entitlement during his tenure or saw the end coming and became convinced that an opportunity to gain public notice had presented itself. I have to wonder how close to printing his book is at this time?

    JPL/Caltech has no specific wording barring the discussion of political or religious topics in the workplace. This stands to reason as long as Tort law and “reasonable expectation” is ignored. What reasonable person requires a negative response to their solicitation from the same person on a repeat basis? Is there not a point where the sales pitch needs to be dropped out of respect for your co-workers? Evidently the need for manners can be bypassed due to the lack of a direct micromanaging policy.

    The “other Christians are biased against me” claim is cause for endless rounds of derisive laughter. This is a pitiful catch-22 of self negation at best. Other Christians are obviously biased against Coppedge because they must have the same bias that Coppedge demonstrates, they simply must. The inter denominational bias card needed to be played during discovery, not in closing arguments.

    Once the head is cut off the chicken, all that’s really left is established facts supporting JPL’s documentation of Coppedge’s behavior becoming increasingly more aggressive in the face of reasonable requests from management.

    Requests to seek guidance where deferred and ultimately ignored, as was the forewarning of the need to expand his technical skills. Moving from Solaris to what is likely the Cern Linux distro shouldn’t be very traumatizing for a veteran. Yet the claim that avoiding training was a demonstration of some kind of commitment to remaining with the Cassini program.

    There is one small detail of an email. If quoted correctly it indicates a want to simply eliminate D.C. from the program entirely. I understand the desire to eliminate staff that need the kind “special management” that D.C. required . I hope it is not allowed to be spun into a “vendetta”, as it appears to be no more of a plot than swatting flies would be.

    Even if all three members of the shortlist had equal technical qualification, negative behavior patterns are a reasonable cause for bias when assessing a candidates suitability for a given role.

    Cheers

  6. We found this on Drudge. For some reason, we thought it was appropriate in a thread about a harassed employee: Formal Reprimand Issued To Flatulent Federal Worker.

  7. When I was a computer systems supervisor we had a guy transferred to our team who was a complete customer disaster. Like Debbie Downer. Total disaster and not all that competent. In order to fire the dude we needed to rack up at least THREE YEARS of negative performance reviews and demonstrate that he failed to rectify himself according to the agreed performance improvement plan.

    Impossible!

    FINALLY, a layoff came and we were able to engineer his job out of the scheme of things. Was he laid off? Nope! He got transferred to another group who wailed pitifully at being laden with this idiot and finally he retired 5 or so years later.

    In a big corporation it’s not easy to just fire someone. Not easy at all. You can be a miserable, soul-sucking jackass and the group has to put up with you possibly forever.

    Think Coppedge.