Final Decision Goes Against Coppedge

The Coppedge v. CalTech and JPL case is done, with a final decision handed down by Judge Hiroshige on Wednesday that confirms his preliminary ruling in favor of JPL. There are news reports here and here about the end of the case. Coppedge had sued, claiming wrongful termination, saying that JPL fired him from his job as a systems administrator because of his religious views. JPL defended itself by bringing to light Coppedge’s personality quirks and also his refusal to get up to speed on the new systems technology that JPL was switching over to. Coppedge was one of about 200 people laid off in a downsizing operation there.

Coppedge’s attorney isn’t letting the press opportunity get away. From the Star News article:

“David was the victim of religious discrimination because a handful of malicious co-workers hated his Christian views, as well as his interest in intelligent design, which they ignorantly perceived to be a religious concept,” Coppedge’s attorney William Becker said in a statement Thursday. “He was demoted and fired for simply being a Christian and someone who believes that nature can be scientifically explained by reference to designs found within it.”

We know that IDC advocates have to deny IDC’s religious character, but that doesn’t make people ignorant for not buying into the deception.

From the La Canada Online article:

Becker — who declined to comment beyond his written statement — contended that by “rubber-stamping” JPL’s proposed judgment, and not issuing a thorough written ruling of his own, it would work in Coppedge’s favor going forward.

“By failing to address the evidence personally, thoughtfully and carefully, [Hiroshige] left the door wide open,” said Becker. “By overruling our objections without giving a reason, the judge has all but handed us a victory on appeal.”

There is a cottage industry of lawyers looking to make their reputation in defending the religious right, and there is some pretty fierce competition for recognition. Becker appears to be participating in that game. As I understand it (and I am not a lawyer), the appeals court will have to take the case with all the findings of fact as they stand; their only review power concerns procedure and findings in law. Contrary to Becker’s statement, it is not clear at all that an appeals court will simply have to overturn the decision. Becker heads into the appeal with the facts as determined by the trial court being that JPL established cause for dismissal of Coppedge and appropriately answered claims of religious discrimination. That puts him behind the eight ball. The appeals court would have to agree that at least one of Becker’s arguments was cogent and revealed an actual difficulty in law rising to reversible error. This, it seems to me, is far from the high probability that Becker assigns to it.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

One thought on “Final Decision Goes Against Coppedge

  • 2013/01/17 at 4:28 pm

    Coppedge’s lawyer twice mentions his Christianity and ID in the same sentence — but somehow it was “ignorant” of his co-workers to perceive ID to be a religious concept. One wonders how often Coppedge forgot to not-link the two in preaching to his co-workers.

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