Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Dover Settles Legal Fees for $1 Million

The Dover school board voted last night to accept a settlement over legal fees stemming from the Kitzmiller case for $1 million. The total cost was over $2 million, which is much higher than I had heard previously:

The Dover Area school board voted Tuesday night to pay $1 million in legal fees to the attorneys that successfully sued the district over its intelligent-design policy.

In addition, each of the 11 plaintiffs will also receive $1 in nominal damages.

Eight of the nine board members voted in favor while Bryan Rehm, who is also a plaintiff, abstained…

The $1 million figure was the result of an agreement worked out between plaintiffs’ attorneys and the district’s solicitor. In exchange, the board agrees it will not appeal.

As part of U.S. Judge John E. Jones III’s decision, in which he ruled Dover’s intelligent-design policy unconstitutional, plaintiffs’ attorneys were permitted to recoup legal fees and expenses.

Even though they have agreed on the settlement, Eric Rothschild, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said lawyers will request an order in court entitling the plaintiffs to more than $2 million in costs.

Steve Russell, the district’s solicitor, said the initial bill had been $2.5 million before negotiations began.

I certainly hope that other school boards take this as a warning not to try the same thing. And I hope state legislatures realize that when they pass laws allowing local school boards to incorporate ID into science classrooms, they’re inviting them into a very expensive “Dover trap”.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Paris
    February 22, 2006

    How incredibly irresponsible the school board was. How typically contemptuous of the citizens they were supposed to represent. What poor stewards of the public’s trust, not to mention the public’s money.

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    February 22, 2006

    Mark-

    Especially since their own legal counsel told them that if they passed the policy, they would lose in court.

  3. #3 David C. Brayton
    February 22, 2006

    Mark–your point was the thing that struck me most about Judge Jones’ opinion. Some members of the school board didn’t even know what ID was.

    However, I doubt they held the public in contempt. It seems that certain members of the board were there simply for the social opportunities-they had little desire to direct educational policy or formulate a vision for the future of the Dover school district. They simply rubber stamped the ideas of other board members.

    Yes, it was a colossal waste of money. But in a free society such as ours, this stuff is bound to happen again (and again). That is why Ed’s blog is so worth reading–it brings this stuff to light and applies reason and analysis to the subject.

  4. #4 Reed A. Cartwright
    February 22, 2006

    Sometimes it is even worse. The county next door went into a 10C fight because a bunch of churches promissed to pay for the case. The county had no shot of winning (they even removed non-christian documents placed beside the 10Cs), but their over-priced, out-of-state lawyer assured them they’d win. Needless to say that when the county lost (SCOTUS ruled on another 10C case), the churches reneged on their promise to pay the costs, refusing to pay the “anti-christian lawyers union”. The country is left holding the bill despite their initial wish to not waste tax payer money.

    This is why I think laws need to be passed that prevent counties from using donations to fund law suits.

  5. #5 sgent
    February 22, 2006

    IMHO the school board ought to seek personal reimbursement from the pervious board.

    When you disregard both your attorney and your insurance company, and put public fund’s at risk, its imprudent and it shouldn’t be the taxpayer’s burden to fund your religious escapades.

    I understand why some people disagree with me — but I believe the school board members have a responsibility to the citizens. They took a very risky action, which they knew was risky, and which could have been avoided. In addition, they did so in pursuit of violation of the 1st ammendment, and for relgious reasons.

  6. #6 ImagoArt
    February 23, 2006

    Of course, all that money could have been saved had they just not gone to trial, and simply let the science squash ID in the classroom…

  7. #7 Ginger Yellow
    February 23, 2006

    How big a budget does the school board have? And does it have to cough up the money right away, or is it going to be paid in installments?

  8. #8 Gretchen
    February 23, 2006

    Much as I want science (and only science) to be taught in science classes, it’s just depressing that $1 million of taxpayer money which could otherwise go to the schools is going to go into lawyers’ pockets.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    February 23, 2006

    Rusty Lopez:

    Of course, all that money could have been saved had they just not gone to trial, and simply let the science squash ID in the classroom…

    All that money could have been saved had the school board listened to everyone other than the Thomas More Law Center (who frankly ought to be sued for legal negligence). Their own attorney told them they were going to lose. Even the Discovery Institute told them not to do it because they would lose in court. But a board of incredibly ignorant people pushed for ID to be put into science classes without any understanding or study of the idea whatsoever, by their own admission. On top of that, they even insured that your idea couldn’t work because their policy forbid any further discussion of the matter in the classroom, it merely referred them to their parents and ministers and to the ridiculous book Of Pandas and People. It’s almost unimaginable how they could have done any worse.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    February 23, 2006

    Ginger Yellow wrote:

    How big a budget does the school board have? And does it have to cough up the money right away, or is it going to be paid in installments?

    I don’t know the size of the overall budget, but the new school board says they can incorporate the bill into the budget without raising the millage.

  11. #11 Jim Ramsey
    February 23, 2006

    “Sometimes it is even worse. The county next door went into a 10C fight because a bunch of churches promissed to pay for the case.”

    I am definitely around computers too much. I looked at “10C” and went ???. Then, I tried Google with “define 10C”. All the time I was thinking 256+12===268 (base 10). Finally, Google of “10C church state lawsuit” made it clear that were talking about the 10 commandments — sigh.

  12. #12 raj
    February 23, 2006

    Reed A. Cartwright | February 22, 2006 07:23 PM

    The county next door went into a 10C fight because a bunch of churches promissed to pay for the case. The county had no shot of winning (they even removed non-christian documents placed beside the 10Cs), but their over-priced, out-of-state lawyer assured them they’d win. Needless to say that when the county lost (SCOTUS ruled on another 10C case), the churches reneged on their promise to pay the costs, refusing to pay the “anti-christian lawyers union”. The country is left holding the bill despite their initial wish to not waste tax payer money.

    This should teach the school districts that they should get the promises in writing. Then their reneging on their promises would be breach of contract.

    I recognize that there can be oral contracts, but it is much easier to prove the terms of a contract if it is in writing, than if it is merely an oral promise.

  13. #13 raj
    February 23, 2006

    Gretchen | February 23, 2006 07:14 AM

    Much as I want science (and only science) to be taught in science classes, it’s just depressing that $1 million of taxpayer money which could otherwise go to the schools is going to go into lawyers’ pockets.

    I would find it depressing, too, except for the fact that the voters in Dover elected the school board that instituted the patently unconstitutional policy. Ultimately, it is the voters who are responsible for the bill, and now they have to pay it.

    I find it interesting that the Dover school district has US$1million laying around that they can use to pay the attorney’s fees, etc. Somehow, I doubt that they do–most school districts seem to be crying poverty.

  14. #14 mark
    February 23, 2006

    I sympathize with those who wish Dover tax dollars could be put to better use. But if school boards could get a free ride on these issues, they might feel they have nothing to lose. Part of the reason the yahoos were voted off the board was their financial irresponsibility in creating the case. Just because some board members lied and deceived, doesn’t mean that they weren’t concerned about bringing morality to town.

  15. #15 ImagoArt
    February 24, 2006

    Excerpts from Ed: Their own attorney told them they were going to lose. Even the Discovery Institute told them… they would lose in court. …On top of that, they even insured that your idea couldn’t work because their policy forbid any further discussion of the matter in the classroom, it merely referred them to their parents and ministers and to the ridiculous book Of Pandas and People. It’s almost unimaginable how they could have done any worse.

    That’s my point, Ed. If, from your point of view, the board made such a lousy decision, and if the idea couldn’t work in the classroom, then why not let it (ID) get pummeled, trampled, squashed, and obliterated… in the classroom? (and save lots of mula in the process)

    Rusty

  16. #16 Ed Brayton
    February 24, 2006

    Rusty wrote:

    That’s my point, Ed. If, from your point of view, the board made such a lousy decision, and if the idea couldn’t work in the classroom, then why not let it (ID) get pummeled, trampled, squashed, and obliterated… in the classroom? (and save lots of mula in the process)

    Perhaps you misunderstand what the Dover policy did. It actually forbid any further discussion of ID in the classroom. ID could not only not get pummelled, it could not be discussed at all after that statement read at the beginning.

  17. #17 Irrational Entity
    February 24, 2006

    ImagoArt, part of the problem would be teachers who do not critically study ID. If my experience in junior high is any measure, many teachers would be happy to invoke ID. We learned about evolution in a couple of classes that barely covered the basic concepts. Later that year, the same teacher led a prayer in class. After finishing, she went on to say that she was not supposed to have prayered, but we were all Christians so it did not matter. I can only imagine what she would do if allowed to bring in Of Pandas and People.

  18. #18 ImagoArt
    February 24, 2006

    Ed,

    It actually forbid any further discussion of ID in the classroom.

    Okay, then it’s my bad. But that makes it even more confusing as to what the big deal was about? That some kids might actually go out and read Of Pandas & People? Once again, if they did that and came back with questions of their own, then wouldn’t a science teacher be within his rights to give an evolutionary response? As it is, it now appears that certain books are perilously close to being censored and alternative ideas being forbidden.

    Rusty

  19. #19 Ed Brayton
    February 24, 2006

    Rusty wrote:

    But that makes it even more confusing as to what the big deal was about? That some kids might actually go out and read Of Pandas & People?

    That the school was telling them to go and read that book, which is blatantly creationist, as an “alternative” to evolution, something the courts have repeatedly ruled out of science classes. As a matter of bad pedagogy, it was additionally bad in that it then forbid a teacher from actually discussing the book or anything in it.

    Once again, if they did that and came back with questions of their own, then wouldn’t a science teacher be within his rights to give an evolutionary response?

    The policy said that if a student had any questions about ID, creationism or anything like that, they were to be directed to their parents and clergy.

    As it is, it now appears that certain books are perilously close to being censored and alternative ideas being forbidden.

    No more than it is censorship not to teach flat earthism in a science class.

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