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C. F. v. Capistrano USD

In December of 2007, the Farnan family sued the Capistrano Unified School District (Orange County, California), as well as one of its history teachers, James Corbett. The Farnan family charged that various remarks Corbett had made were an "exhibition of hostility toward religion and endorsement of irreligion in a public school classroom," thereby violating the First Amendment rights of their son, Chad ["C.F."], one of Corbett's students. Among the statements attributed to Corbett were, 'Conservatives don't want women to avoid pregnancies — that's interfering with God's work' and 'When you pray for divine intervention, you're hoping that the spaghetti monster will help you get what you want.'"

On May 1, 2009, District Judge James Selna identified only one of Corbett's statements as constitutionally impermissible: namely, his description of creationism as "superstitious nonsense." On July 13, 2009, in a "tentative ruling," Selna denied the Farnans' request for a declaratory judgment or injunction against Corbett or the school district. The case remains open, as questions of nominal damages and attorneys' fees have yet to be determined.

On February 11, 2011, the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals listened to arguments from both sides whether: 1) the district court erred in finding that one of Corbett's statements violated the "Establishment Clause" of the Constitution; and 2) whether the court erred in granting Corbett and the district 'qualified immunity' from damages. The proceedings are available as an audio recording.

On August 19, 2011, Judge Fisher of the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Dr. Corbett is indeed entitled to qualified immunity. In so doing, he vacated the lower court's finding against Corbett and the school district. Also, he declined to rule on the constitutionality of the teacher's statements because the issue was resolved "on [the] basis [of qualified immunity] alone".

The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court which declined to hear the case. [Writ of Certiorari denied 21 February 2012.]

Key legal documents for this case are provided at the bottom of this page. They are arranged in chronological order.

 


 

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AttachmentSize
12/11/2007: Plaintiff's Original Complaint1.03 MB
1/15/08: Plaintiff's amended complaint42.81 KB
3/19/08: Intervention by teachers' union for defendants357.53 KB
3/19/08: Defendants' answer to amended complaint226.35 KB
5/1/09: Court Ruling and Opinion92.91 KB
5/22/09: Union intervenors' addendum to joint proposal98.85 KB
5/22/09: Joint proposal by plaintiffs and defendants for disposition of remaining issues778.23 KB
6/1/09: Civil minutes7.82 KB
6/8/09: Defendants' motion for leave to file amended answer1.29 MB
6/8/09: Plaintiffs' supplemental briefing1.32 MB
6/8/09: Defendants' motion for determination of qualified immunity794.81 KB
6/15/09: Union intervenors' opposition to plaintiffs' supplemental briefing479.58 KB
6/15/09: Plaintiffs' opposition to defendants' motion for leave to file95.66 KB
6/15/09: Plaintiffs' opposition to defendants' motion for determination89.39 KB
6/15/09: Defendants' opposition to plaintiffs' supplementary briefing923.29 KB
6/22/09: Plaintiffs' reply to union intervenors' opposition to plaintiffs' supplemental briefing517.21 KB
6/22/09: Plaintiffs' reply to defendants' opposition to plaintiffs' supplemental briefing859.87 KB
6/22/09: Defendants' reply to plaintiffs' opposition to defendants' motion for determination617.98 KB
6/22/09: Defendants' reply to plaintiffs' opposition to defendants' motion for leave to file437.05 KB
7/13/09: Court ruling denying plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief or declaratory judgment, also denying defendants' motion for leave to file amended answer and qualified immunity59.65 KB
7/24/09: Defendants' new motion to amend scheduling of conference and to amend answer to complaint1.32 MB
7/24/09: Defendants' motion for hearing on qualified immunity962.41 KB
7/27/09: Court order denying Defendants' motions to file amended answer and to qualified immunity determination, denying plaintiff's request for injunctive and declaratory relief, deferring cons62.11 KB
7/30/09: CTA joinder in defendants' motion for hearing on qualified immunity70.39 KB
8/17/09: Plaintiff's opposition to motion for hearing on qualified immunity734.79 KB
8/17/09: Plaintiffs' opposition to motion to amend scheduling of conference and answer to complaint1.05 MB
8/18/09: Court order for statements on question of qualified immunity to be submitted by August 209.2 KB
8/20/09: Defendants' supplementary brief of the effect of union's pleading qualified immunity222.41 KB
8/20/09: Union's supplementary brief of the effect of union's pleading qualified immunity173.62 KB
9/15/09: Order on Motion for Determination RE Qualified Immunity1.34 MB
9/24/09: Judgment1.16 MB
10/06/10: Plaintiff's Opening Brief to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals285.17 KB
6/17/10: Nat'l Legal Foundation's Amicus Brief supporting the Plaintiff238.55 KB
7/26/10: CTA's 2nd Brief & Response to Plaintiff's 1st Brief3.04 MB
8/25/10: Plaintiff's 3rd Brief & Response to Defendant's 2nd Brief196.71 KB
9/27/10: Defendant's Reply Brief171.41 KB
9/27/10: CTA's Reply to Plaintiff's 3rd Brief903.29 KB
10/26/10: Plaintiff's Docketing Statement to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals147.73 KB
10/26/10: Defendant's Cross Appeal Docketing Statement to 9th Circuit381.95 KB
8/19/11: Court Affirms Corbett Entitled to Qualified Immunity736.5 KB
2/21/12: Supreme Court denies Plaintiff's Writ of Certiorari57 KB