The microscopist fired for his publication of Darwin-embarrassing dinosaur soft tissue has won a historic settlement against Cal State University.
Exclusive: Mark Armitage tells CEH that his case against Cal State University Northridge (CSUN) has resulted in a settlement after Judge Dalila Lyons of the California Superior Court ruled in a motion of adjudication favorable to his complaint. Rather than face a probable loss before a jury, CSUN’s lawyers chose to settle with him. Armitage writes:
It was not simply a motion for summary judgment that the judge ruled against. The judge ruled against them in a motion for adjudication. There’s a big difference. In other words the judge made a ruling on the case and as a trier of fact concluded that we proved our case that they discriminated against my religion and they failed to follow up or investigate a written complaint of religious discrimination. There was no sense for the University to be dragged into the jury trial because it was clear that they were going to lose at trial and the awards would have been much larger than they presently are.
According to FreedomX attorney Bill Becker, who litigated the Coppedge vs JPL case in 2012, a motion for adjudication means that the judge has confirmed certain evidence to be factual, and thus not in need of debate before a trier of fact. Said evidence can thus be stipulated as factual at the beginning of a court proceeding. Whatever the facts were, they must have been significant enough to scare CSUN’s attorneys from chancing a trial before a jury.
Mark was employed as a microscopist and lab instructor at the university, but was abruptly terminated in 2014 without explanation after he and Dr. Kevin Anderson published a paper in Acta Histochemica describing soft tissue they had found in a Triceratops horn in Montana. That paper mentioned nothing about intelligent design or creationism, but Mark is well known as a young earth creationist, being a board member of the Creation Research Society (CRS), along with Anderson. The case caught the attention of Nature (11/05/14). Finding intact soft tissue inside a dinosaur bone causes obvious problems with the geological time scale (6/10/15). Since his firing, Mark has continued electron-microscopy work on dinosaur soft tissue under the auspices of CRS.
Indications are that significant haggling went on before reaching a settlement. Mark and his attorney, Alan Reinach of Church State Council, apparently stood firm, according to Dr. Jay Wile, who spoke with Mark and wrote about it on a blog entry. Mark tells CEH that all parties signed, checks were written, and “my oh my some of them were very big.”
So this is a done deal and we won a clear Victory. As my attorney has said, especially to a group of his peers at a meeting of employment lawyers, we have won an historic victory.
Details of the settlement are not available until Reinach issues a formal press release. Mark tells CEH that there was no non-disclosure agreement, “so I’m free to give out the whole story including the amazing deposition testimony,” he said. So far, however, the only news online about the case as this entry goes to press is a Jay Wile’s blog, a homemade YouTube video by Mark posted October 1, and our email conversations with Mark quoted here. When a press release is issued, we will update this entry below.
Update 10/04/16: Mark has written more information under his YouTube video, and is responding to comments.
Update 10/05/16: An article on The College Fix adds more information, stating that Mark received a six-figure amount in the settlement, approximately 15 times his annual part-time salary. Alan Reinach says the university is still not admitting to discrimination: “the judge did not rule, in the settlement agreement there is no admission of guilt, and they have rehashed their claim that he was fired for budgetary reasons.” So there does not appear to be a ruling on the merits. Nevertheless, CSUN’s would not have agreed to such a large settlement if they thought they could win in court, Reinach believes; “they certainly would not have paid that kind of money if they did not recognize that we had them dead to rights.”
While we wait for more detail, this appears to be a historic turn of events indeed. While some plaintiffs have won settlements against Darwin bigots (e.g., the California Science Center case, the Martin Garlick case, the Eric Hedin case), the vast majority of court cases have turned out badly for design advocates and creationists. Jerry Bergman’s 2nd volume of Slaughter of the Dissidents was just published: Silencing the Darwin Skeptics details additional stories of creationists and design advocates suffering loss of jobs or tenure for going against the Darwin Party. Will the Armitage case put the bigots on notice that they stand to lose significant money and prestige if they continue to discriminate? Time will tell.
According to Jay Wile, CSUN’s lawyers pulled the same stunt as JPL’s lawyers in the Coppedge case, claiming Mark was fired for “budgetary reasons.” It also appears that having a good judge is key. Mark thinks the Honorable Judge Lyons is a Christian. Coppedge’s judge who ruled against him in the JPL case, Ernest Hiroshige (in the same Los Angeles courthouse as Lyons), is a Democrat appointed by Jerry Brown—unlikely to have wanted to face his peer group as having given aid and comfort to the “enemy” (intelligent design advocates). His decision was given without explanation.