Jim Corbett Gets a Break in Case Against Former Student Chad Farnan

There’s some good news for California teacher Jim Corbett, who was accused by his former student Chad Farnan of making anti-Christian comments during history class.

The clerk’s office in federal district court in Santa Anna, California has determined that nearly $20,000 in court costs should be borne by high school student Chad Farnan…

The fees are to be paid by Advocates for Faith & Freedom, a Christian legal group that represented Farnan pro-bono. The school district and teachers’ union, whose attorneys also represented Corbett, now plan to file a motion to recover over $378,000 in attorneys’ fees.

This case is complicated to figure out. Corbett was found to have violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The school district and Corbett, at separate hearings, were found to be not liable for Corbett’s actions because of his “qualified immunity defense.”

And now, Farnan’s legal team has to pay the court costs.

Corbett’s team is still seeking to recover attorney’s fees ($378,519) and it’s possible that Advocates for Faith & Freedom will have to pay that again. Not surprisingly, they’re appealing.

(See? Complicated.)

Corbett actually commented on this site about his situation — he feels that the reported comments he made in class have been distorted and taken out of context.

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  • I’m confused. If Corbett was found guilty, how can Corbett or the school district recover attorney’s fees?

    Yes, he’s immune, but what is the justification for him shifting his legal bills to Farnan and ‘Advocates for Faith & Freedom’?

    I can see it if Farnan and his lawyers were found to be willfully bringing a nuisance suit (as Farnam’s lawyers should be aware if that was the case) instead of other paths such as arbitration. Then, nail the lawyers and Farnam for wasting the court’s time in an effort to abuse the defendant and his counsel.

    With that all said, I admit that I don’t know enough of the details of the case. From what little I’ve heard, what Corbett did was not serious enough to warrant a court case though it was (?) out of line if he repeatedly went back to the issue. That said, creationism is defensibly exactly as Corbett stated; “superstitious nonsense”, though in a class the teacher should use a more scholarly approach to any issue even if the conclusion when facts are presented may be as clear as simply stating that an idea is “superstitious nonsense”.

  • Richard

    I think I must be misunderstanding something here.

    As I’m reading this, the plaintiff might be ordered to pay fees, merely because his complaint resulted in a ruling of qualified immunity.

    This seems like it would have a hugely chilling effect on lawsuits about civil rights.

    For instance, in SAFFORD UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT #1 ET AL. v. REDDING, the supreme court ruled that it’s a civil rights violation for school administrators to strip-search a 13 year old merely because they suspect her of possessing a tablet of aspirin.

    However, they also ruled that the administrators actions were covered by qualified immunity. Surely, awarding costs to the plaintiff would be unreasonable in a case such as this.

    Is there something that made the suit against Mr. Corbett particularly frivolous or otherwise merits putting costs onto the plaintiff?

  • Ryan

    The appeal should be interesting, Corbett is getting help from a heavyweight in Constitutional law: Erwin Chemerinsky