The parties continue to await the judge’s decision in David Coppedge’s suit against NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). As reported in previous entries on this blog, Coppedge was employed as a System’s Administrator at JPL. His suit claims that he was the victim of discrimination and adverse employment actions as the result of his alleged on the job discussions of Intelligent Design. The parties concluded trial prior to Memorial Day weekend. A decision was initially expected as early as June 2012. But that date, and the remainder of the summer, came and went without a decision.
My initial guess was that a settlement had perhaps been reached. Often, parties to bench trials (cases in which the parties waive a jury and try the case to the judge) settle after the presentation of evidence. Lawyers are very good at reading the tea leaves in a bench trial. Judges very often telegraph or hint which way they are leaning. Some go so far as to tell you how they will rule. One famous South Texas federal judge, after hearing the evidence in a bench trial I conducted with him, told us in open court “I have heard the evidence. I am probably going to find your client at fault, and I am probably going to award around $150,000 in damages. Why don’t you go try to settle the case”. He also let us know that if one side agreed to settle for $150,000, and the other didn’t, the party that didn’t would, in his words, be penalized (his actual language was MUCH stronger). Needless to say, we settled the case for $150,000.
But it seems that there has not been a settlement in Coppedge. Rather, Coppedge and JPL are engaged in filing a war of post-trial written briefs, in an attempt to get the “last word” in with the judge. These can be viewed at here. Both Coppedge and JPL filed lengthy post-trial briefs. Coppedge then filed two briefs in response to JPL’s brief. The latest was filed on August 28th. The briefing in no way suggests that the parties are negotiating a settlement. At some point the judge will likely say “enough”, ask that no more briefs be filed, and decide the case. But if the judge strongly signaled which way he was leaning, it is likely that at least one of the parties has considered settlement. Stay tuned.