Appeals court was not misled in Selman case


by Susan Spath

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an interim ruling on January 4, 2006, in the lawsuit over anti-evolution warning labels in textbooks in the Cobb County (GA) school district. The ruling clarifies the court's position on whether or not it was misled by attorney Jeffrey Bramlett, representing the plaintiffs-appellees, during oral argument on December 14, 2005, before Judges Frank Hull, William H. Pryor, and Edward E. Carnes. According to an article in the Fulton County Daily Report, "At the end of the argument, Judge Edward E. Carnes recalled Bramlett to the podium and demanded that he file an explanation for what Carnes suggested was a deliberate effort to mislead the court about the timeline during which the school board decided to put the stickers in books. Bramlett filed a 127-page response a week after the argument, and on Tuesday school board lawyer Ernest Linwood Gunn IV filed his version of the facts."

Wednesday's four-page court order clarified the matter, concluding, "The Court...does not find that counsel misled it or attempted to do so. We issue this order to remove any implication that either counsel did."

Confusion continues, however, over when, and even whether, the Cobb County school board considered a petition with 2,300 signatures from avowed creationist Marjorie Rogers. On January 5, 2006, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that school board attorney Linwood Gunn expressed doubts as to whether the petition ever existed. The article also notes that the newspaper reported on March 29, 2002, that " ... the day the school board adopted the stickers, Rogers told the board she had collected signatures from 2,300 people who were dissatisfied with science texts that espoused 'Darwinism unchallenged,'" and that a few days later, "...a Journal-Constitution reporter examined the petitions at the Cobb school system offices and took notes on names and phone numbers of some of the people who had signed." Furthermore, the article notes that on April 14, 2002, "... the Journal-Constitution again reported that the school board had agreed to insert the stickers inside science texts in response to pressure from several dozen parents who criticized the teaching of evolution. The article said the parents had presented petitions with 2,000 names of county residents who demanded accuracy in textbooks. The Cobb school board did not challenge the existence of the petitions at that time."

The Court is expected to rule on the appeal sometime this year.