It was only three weeks ago that we wrote John Oller Litigation Update — 02 Sep 2014, informing you that on 22 August, the court had ruled against all of Oller’s claims and the case was over — unless he appealed.
Well, Oller has appealed. It was filed on 22 September in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, case number 14-31101. Hey — the lower court ruled against Oller on 22 August, and he appealed on 22 September. There may be a reason for that timing. We Googled around. Sure enough, the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure say, in Rule 4:
In a civil case, except as provided in [blah, blah, blah], the notice of appeal required by Rule 3 must be filed with the district clerk within 30 days after entry of the judgment or order appealed from.
Our guess is that after losing in the trial court, Oller’s lawyers kept trying to work something out up to the last minute, but nothing happened so the Notice of Appeal was filed. By keeping the thing alive, they can continue to negotiate.
The only available information we could find is here: John Oller v. Nancye Roussel, et al . The Justia website only gives us the bare bones. To see the pleadings, one needs a Pacer subscription, which we don’t have. There won’t be any more depositions or other discovery; that only happens at the trial court level. In an appeal, the interesting stuff will be Oller’s brief and the briefs of the defendants. One way or another we’ll end up with access to those, but they probably won’t be filed for months, and after that it might take several more months before the court issues its opinion.
From the available information, it appears that Oller’s attorney for the appeal is unchanged from the trial court — John B. Wells, who is affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund — now called the Alliance Defending Freedom — the same outfit that was involved in the David Coppedge case. We looked at their website, but there’s nothing there yet about this appeal, or about the loss in the court below.
Although Oller is a creationist and has other unusual views — he seems to be an anti-vaxxer — this isn’t the typical case that we follow in which creationism is the central issue. Oller sued the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he was (and still is) a professor. The complaint alleged that faculty members of the university’s Communicative Disorders Department discriminated against him in various administrative ways and marginalized his position because of his beliefs. But he wasn’t fired. The trial court dismissed his case and ruled that whatever slights and disappointments Oller may have experienced, they were within the university’s discretion and didn’t amount to a violation of his civil rights.
This case is more about the nuances of university employment practices and civil rights law than it is about the constitutionality of teaching creationism. What we’re trying to say is that this is no Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Nevertheless, it’s a source of amusement for us whenever creationists flail about in the court system. But this case is potentially more than that, because if Oller were to win, it could be a major source of grief for employers everywhere. So it’s worth watching.
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