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U.S. District Court Judge Goes Through the Motions in Dover

Last week U.S District Court Judge John E. Jones III issued a memorandum and order in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. Kitzmiller is the lawsuit brought by the ACLU against the school board in Dover, PA, for its policy requiring students in science class be read a statement by administrators mentioning both intelligent design and problems with evolution. Discovery Institute’s prior press release concerning the Dover School Board policy can be found here.

Judge Jones’ memorandum and order concerned two pre-trial motions, namely; (1) a motion of the Rutherford Institute to intervene as a third-party in the lawsuit on behalf of Dover parents; and (2) the motion to dismiss by the Defendant Dover Area School District (represented by the Thomas More Law Center). Continuation of the lawsuit to trial did not directly hinge one way or the other upon the Judge’s ruling on these motions.

As previously blogged about (here), the Rutherford Institute filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of parents who were concerned that the arguments the ACLU was advancing in the suit and the remedy that the ACLU was seeking from the court would prevent students’ “…access to information and ideas in an academic setting.” Several Dover parents were concerned that if the ACLU were successful in its lawsuit that the result would be a censoring and shielding of students from all criticism of biological evolutionary theory.

Although Judge Jones noted that the Rutherford Institute’s intervention application was submitted in a timely fashion, the motion to intervene was DENIED under Rule 24(a) and (b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (It may be of interest to readers that the Judge noted in his ruling that the ACLU does not seek to remove the intelligent design textbook Of Pandas and People from the Dover School District’s school libraries, but only from its science classrooms.)

The Defendant School District’s motion to dismiss concerned the standing claims of a small handful of Dover parents being represented by the ACLU. In essence, the Defendant argued that certain parents experienced no “injury in fact” sufficient to be a party to the suit. Certain ACLU-represented parents have children well below the ninth grade and certain other ACLU-represented parents have children above the ninth grade. Judge Jones DENIED the Defendants’ motion to dismiss from the case the parents of children several years to young to be directly affected by the Dover Board policy. The Judge found it premature (at this stage of the lawsuit) to dismiss certain parents of children who had already advanced beyond the ninth grade in Dover Schools.

As Judge Jones noted in his memorandum and order, pre-trial discovery as to the actual merits of the legal claims and defenses has not yet begun in this case. Accordingly, a trial is still some months away.