In our previous post about the latest flurry of pleadings, which you can see here, we looked at the first four installments of Coppedge’s seven-part Objections to JPL’s Proposed Statement of Decision.
When the trial ended, the judge told JPL-Caltech to write up a final decision document that rules against Coppedge on all counts, and Coppedge is now objecting to that proposed order. All of this is after 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. Coppedge 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.
Coppedge’s objections give us a preview of the decision document JPL-Caltech has drafted, and as we’ve seen, his objections appear to be nothing more than complaining that the trial went against him. If you followed the news of the trial as it occurred, there’s no need to re-live it again by reading through these objections. However, we shall dutifully take a look at the remaining pleadings to see if there’s anything interesting.
We previously went through the first four installments of Coppedge objections, so now we turn to part five, which you can see here at the NCSE archive (it’s a 28-page pdf file). Right away we encounter a bit of a tangle.
Although the actual pleading is captioned “Part 5 of 7,” it begins with paragraph 1 of the proposed final order. When we started reading Coppedge’s “Part 1,” which began with paragraph 7 of the proposed order, we assumed the first six paragraphs JPL had prepared were unobjectionable. We were wrong, and for some reason we can’t fathom, Coppedge isn’t going through the order’s paragraphs in numerical sequence. So now that we’re in Part 5, we’re dealing with the proposed order’s first paragraph.
That says: “A plaintiff bears the burden of proving each fact that is essential to his claim.” Although that’s fundamental to American litigation, Coppedge objects to it. He says, with bold font added by us:
Plaintiff had met this burden in its Order on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment and is not entitled to revisit whether Coppedge proved a prima facie case of discrimination at trial.
Presumably he meant to say that JPL-Caltech is not entitled to revisit that issue. Egad! Even we know better than that. A motion for summary judgment is merely a pre-trial request to the court to rule that a party has won its case based on the law and the pleadings alone, and that because no facts are in dispute, a trial is unnecessary. Such motions are commonly made but rarely granted. Regardless of what a judge may think of a case based on the pleadings, he usually finds that there’s some factual dispute that might be important so he lets the parties have their day in court.
When the court denied JPL’s motion for summary judgment, all that meant, in effect, is that Coppedge’s complaint (along with whatever discovery had occurred) stated a claim that wasn’t totally worthless as a matter of law, and he was entitled to a trial so he could prove his allegations. Therefore Coppedge had his day in court, and now the judge has found that although his complaint was well enough drafted that it had stated a legal claim, Coppedge failed to prove his case. The earlier summary judgment means nothing at this point. Yet Coppedge’s objection to this paragraph goes on for three pages.
Next comes paragraph 2 of the proposed order, which is also about the burden of proof. It’s the same issue, so we’ll skip it. Then we come to paragraph 3. Here, JPL’s draft of the final order says:
If Coppedge meets the burden of establishing a prima facie case, the burden shifts to Caltech to establish a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its adverse employment decision.
Coppedge objects to that for the same reasons as before. Then we come to paragraph 4 of the proposed order, which says:
After Caltech provides its legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason [for its adverse employment decision], Coppedge must produce specific, substantial evidence that the actions in question were taken because of his religious views. … [T]here must be evidence supporting a rational inference that intentional discrimination, on grounds prohibited by the statute, was the true cause of the employer’s actions.
Coppedge objects to that for about three pages. He doesn’t object to paragraph 5 (so we don’t know what it says), but he does object to paragraph 6 by incorporating his earlier objections. That paragraph of the proposed order says:
The Court finds that Coppedge has failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the conduct he alleges supports a prima facie case of religious discrimination or perceived-as religious discrimination.
We’ve skimmed through the rest of this pleading. Basically, the proposed order says that Coppedge failed to prove the necessary elements of his case, and Coppedge now argues that he did prove it — he really, really did. This is like, after hearing an adverse verdict from a jury, the losing party starts shouting at them that they’re a bunch of idiots for not believing him and they should go back, re-think everything, and then reach a different decision. But it’s too late. The trial is over.
We still have parts six and seven of Coppedge’s objections to look at, and then there’s another pleading too. This is tough slogging, but we’ll try to get around to that stuff.
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