1 p.m.: Although Judge Ernest Hiroshige on Wednesday had yet to hear arguments about blocking media access by the court's noon recess, the jurist opted to hold a hearing about admitting evidence behind closed doors, rather than in open court, where several reporters were in attendance.
The court clerk for Department 54 told members of the media that the hearing would be on the record, but held in the judge's chambers.
Earlier: Attorneys for Jet Propulsion Laboratory are expected to argue Wednesday to exclude media coverage from certain aspects of David Coppedge's religious discrimination case.
Defense attorney Jim Zapp said Tuesday that publicly testifying about their religious beliefs and religious attitudes is a "violation of [witnesses'] constitutional right to privacy.''
Coppedge sued California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL for NASA, claiming religious discrimination and retaliation after he was let go in 2011. Coppedge is an evangelical Christian who frequently spoke about religion at work. He further believes in intelligent design, the theory that life is too complex to have developed solely through evolution, and that the universe was designed by an intelligent entity. Coppedge believes his views on intelligent design led to his demotion and termination.
JPL contends that supervisors received numerous complaints about Coppedge, both about his alleged harassment of co-workers regarding his viewpoints and a lack of flexibility with colleagues on the Cassini Mission to Saturn.
Following opening statements Tuesday, Zapp told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige that he does not want to see witnesses subjected to "outrageous'' questions and then have their lives "dragged out in open court'' because someone filed a lawsuit.
"Maybe religion is not a personal subject for Mr. Becker, but maybe it is for other people. The employees are innocent in this process,'' he said.
William Becker, Coppedge's attorney, likened Zapp's request to a gag order and objected strenuously to any media blackout.
If testimony is kept from the public, then people will only hear half of the case and not understand what the case is really about: that Coppedge was unfairly demoted, discriminated against and fired, he said.
"JPL just doesn’t want anything to come out in this case. I feel they’ve been searcing for ways to keep [information from coming] out,'' Becker added.
Check back on LCF Patch later today for an update on the trial.