"Intelligent design" costs Dover over $1,000,000

On February 21, 2006, the Dover Area School Board voted, unanimously with one absention, to pay $1,000,011 in legal fees and damages resulting from the verdict in Kitzmiller v. Dover. The eleven plaintiffs -- local parents who challenged the constitutionality of the Dover Area School Board's policy of requiring students to be taught about "intelligent design" and "gaps/problems" with evolution -- will receive a token $1 each, while the remainder will reimburse the fees and expenses of their legal team.

According to documents filed with the court, the legal team's fees and expenses actually total $2,067,226, but Pepper Hamilton LLP, the private law firm that devoted substantial resources to the case pro bono, agreed to charge only for its expenses. Eric Rothschild of Pepper Hamilton told the York Dispatch (February 22, 2006) that his firm was willing to compromise in recognition of the limited resources of the district and of the change in the school board's composition after the November 2005 election.

In addition to Pepper Hamilton, the plaintiffs' legal team included the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the National Center for Science Education. NCSE consulted pro bono and thus receives no portion of the fees and expenses. The defendants in the case were represented without charge by the Thomas More Law Center, a Michigan-based religious law firm that bills itself as "The Sword and Shield for People of Faith."

Richard Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United, told [Link broken] the Dispatch (February 23, 2006), "Any board thinking of trying to do what the Dover board did is going to have to look for a bill in excess of $2 million," adding, "I think $2 million is a lot to explain to taxpayers for a lawsuit that should never be fought." The school board was offered the opportunity to rescind its policy -- and to avoid paying legal fees -- immediately after the lawsuit was filed in 2004, but it declined.