C. F. v. Capistrano USD

In December of 2007, the Farnan family sued the Capistrano Unified School District (Orange County, California), as well as one of its history teachers, James Corbett. The Farnan family charged that various remarks Corbett had made were an "exhibition of hostility toward religion and endorsement of irreligion in a public school classroom," thereby violating the First Amendment rights of their son, Chad ["C.F."], one of Corbett's students. Among the statements attributed to Corbett were, 'Conservatives don't want women to avoid pregnancies — that's interfering with God's work' and 'When you pray for divine intervention, you're hoping that the spaghetti monster will help you get what you want.'"

On May 1, 2009, District Judge James Selna identified only one of Corbett's statements as constitutionally impermissible: namely, his description of creationism as "superstitious nonsense." On July 13, 2009, in a "tentative ruling," Selna denied the Farnans' request for a declaratory judgment or injunction against Corbett or the school district. The case remains open, as questions of nominal damages and attorneys' fees have yet to be determined.

On February 11, 2011, the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals listened to arguments from both sides whether: 1) the district court erred in finding that one of Corbett's statements violated the "Establishment Clause" of the Constitution; and 2) whether the court erred in granting Corbett and the district 'qualified immunity' from damages. The proceedings are available as an audio recording.

On August 19, 2011, Judge Fisher of the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Dr. Corbett is indeed entitled to qualified immunity. In so doing, he vacated the lower court's finding against Corbett and the school district. Also, he declined to rule on the constitutionality of the teacher's statements because the issue was resolved "on [the] basis [of qualified immunity] alone".

The plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court which declined to hear the case. [Writ of Certiorari denied 21 February 2012.]

Key legal documents for this case are provided at the bottom of this page. They are arranged in chronological order.

 


 

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AttachmentSize
PDF icon 12/11/2007: Plaintiff's Original Complaint1.03 MB
PDF icon 1/15/08: Plaintiff's amended complaint42.81 KB
PDF icon 3/19/08: Intervention by teachers' union for defendants357.53 KB
PDF icon 3/19/08: Defendants' answer to amended complaint226.35 KB
PDF icon 5/1/09: Court Ruling and Opinion92.91 KB
PDF icon 5/22/09: Union intervenors' addendum to joint proposal98.85 KB
PDF icon 5/22/09: Joint proposal by plaintiffs and defendants for disposition of remaining issues778.23 KB
PDF icon 6/1/09: Civil minutes7.82 KB
PDF icon 6/8/09: Defendants' motion for leave to file amended answer1.29 MB
PDF icon 6/8/09: Plaintiffs' supplemental briefing1.32 MB
PDF icon 6/8/09: Defendants' motion for determination of qualified immunity794.81 KB
PDF icon 6/15/09: Union intervenors' opposition to plaintiffs' supplemental briefing479.58 KB
PDF icon 6/15/09: Plaintiffs' opposition to defendants' motion for leave to file95.66 KB
PDF icon 6/15/09: Plaintiffs' opposition to defendants' motion for determination89.39 KB
PDF icon 6/15/09: Defendants' opposition to plaintiffs' supplementary briefing923.29 KB
PDF icon 6/22/09: Plaintiffs' reply to union intervenors' opposition to plaintiffs' supplemental briefing517.21 KB
PDF icon 6/22/09: Plaintiffs' reply to defendants' opposition to plaintiffs' supplemental briefing859.87 KB
PDF icon 6/22/09: Defendants' reply to plaintiffs' opposition to defendants' motion for determination617.98 KB
PDF icon 6/22/09: Defendants' reply to plaintiffs' opposition to defendants' motion for leave to file437.05 KB
PDF icon 7/13/09: Court ruling denying plaintiffs' request for injunctive relief or declaratory judgment, also denying defendants' motion for leave to file amended answer and qualified immunity59.65 KB
PDF icon 7/24/09: Defendants' new motion to amend scheduling of conference and to amend answer to complaint1.32 MB
PDF icon 7/24/09: Defendants' motion for hearing on qualified immunity962.41 KB
PDF icon 7/27/09: Court order denying Defendants' motions to file amended answer and to qualified immunity determination, denying plaintiff's request for injunctive and declaratory relief, deferring cons62.11 KB
PDF icon 7/30/09: CTA joinder in defendants' motion for hearing on qualified immunity70.39 KB
PDF icon 8/17/09: Plaintiff's opposition to motion for hearing on qualified immunity734.79 KB
PDF icon 8/17/09: Plaintiffs' opposition to motion to amend scheduling of conference and answer to complaint1.05 MB
PDF icon 8/18/09: Court order for statements on question of qualified immunity to be submitted by August 209.2 KB
PDF icon 8/20/09: Defendants' supplementary brief of the effect of union's pleading qualified immunity222.41 KB
PDF icon 8/20/09: Union's supplementary brief of the effect of union's pleading qualified immunity173.62 KB
PDF icon 9/15/09: Order on Motion for Determination RE Qualified Immunity1.34 MB
PDF icon 9/24/09: Judgment1.16 MB
PDF icon 10/06/10: Plaintiff's Opening Brief to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals285.17 KB
PDF icon 6/17/10: Nat'l Legal Foundation's Amicus Brief supporting the Plaintiff238.55 KB
PDF icon 7/26/10: CTA's 2nd Brief & Response to Plaintiff's 1st Brief3.04 MB
PDF icon 8/25/10: Plaintiff's 3rd Brief & Response to Defendant's 2nd Brief196.71 KB
PDF icon 9/27/10: Defendant's Reply Brief171.41 KB
PDF icon 9/27/10: CTA's Reply to Plaintiff's 3rd Brief903.29 KB
PDF icon 10/26/10: Plaintiff's Docketing Statement to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals147.73 KB
PDF icon 10/26/10: Defendant's Cross Appeal Docketing Statement to 9th Circuit381.95 KB
PDF icon 8/19/11: Court Affirms Corbett Entitled to Qualified Immunity736.5 KB
PDF icon 2/21/12: Supreme Court denies Plaintiff's Writ of Certiorari57 KB