Decision in Coppedge case


"A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ... confirmed an earlier ruling that found Jet Propulsion Laboratory administrators did not discriminate against a longtime staffer when they laid him off in 2011," reports the La Cañada Valley Sun (January 17, 2013). The initial complaint, filed on April 11, 2010, alleged that JPL discriminated against and unfairly demoted David Coppedge because of his discussion of "intelligent design" as well as religious and political issues in the workplace. After Coppedge was laid off from his job in January 2011, the complaint was amended to add a claim of wrongful termination, although JPL replied that Coppedge was laid off as part of a natural attrition.

Ernest Hiroshige, the judge presiding over the case, was unconvinced by Coppedge's arguments, however, and adopted the defendant's proposed statement of decision and proposed statement of judgment on January 15, 2013. The decision was not unexpected: in November 2012, Judge Hiroshige tentatively ruled in favor of the defendant. The proposed statements, running fifty-seven pages, declare (PDF) that Coppedge failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Caltech (which operates JPL for NASA) engaged in religious discrimination against, retaliated against, failed to prevent discrimination against, wrongfully demoted, or wrongfully terminated Coppedge.

Reporting on the case before it went to trial, the Pasadena Star-News (November 30, 2011) described Coppedge as "[a] well-known figure among proponents of 'intelligent design'" and noted that he operates the Creation-Evolution Headlines website, although the newspaper overlooked the fact that he is also on the board of Illustra Media, which produces "intelligent design" films such as Unlocking the Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet, and Darwin's Dilemma. It was, in part, Coppedge's distribution of such films to his coworkers that prompted JPL to take disciplinary action against him. Documents from the case, David Coppedge v. Jet Propulsion Laboratory et al., are available on NCSE's website.