Panel celebrates 10-year anniversary of Dover intelligent design trial


Even 10 years later, nothing can compare to the now- famous intelligent design trial, Kitzmiller v. Dover, for those who were members of the victorious legal team.

"It was billed as 'Scopes 2,' and that really says a lot ... Bruce Springsteen was talking about it at his concerts. I mean you don't get any more high profile than that," said ACLU-PA Legal Director Vic Walczak, who oversaw the 2005 challenge to the Dover Area School District's policy requiring the teaching of intelligent design.

Attorney Eric Rothschild and his firm, Pepper and Hamilton LLC, partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to serve the parents battling the notion of intelligent design as a viable topic for science class.

"It is probably the most unique professional experience in my life," he said. "It was just a very dramatic and celebrated trial with tons of attention regarding this important cause that I also felt very strongly about."

Rothschild dubbed his nearly eight-hour cross examination of Michael Behe, a Lehigh University professor and intelligent design advocate, among "the most successful and competent moments of lawyering that I have ever done."

Walczak said his life was "charmed" while reflecting on some of the higher profile cases he has worked on, including Lozano v. City of Hazleton, a case that challenged the Illegal Immigration Relief Act ordinances, and the Pennsylvania Voter ID trial, which battled stipulations that would have required citizens to have a photo ID in order to vote.

"None of them can touch Dover, though," Walczak said. "I sat in that courtroom for six weeks and wondered how I could be so lucky to be part of something so historic. When I wasn't on my feet examining a witness, I would just look around at all the people there. It was clear very early on how huge this would be. It was recognized internationally. I remember talking to reporters from the BBC, from Sweden, China, the Philippines — truly the entire world was watching."

The amount of media coverage also stood out to Rothschild.

"I remember bracing to come to trial on the first day with our clients and colleagues, and we were met by just throngs of reporters," he said. "Every day of the trial was exciting and interesting."

Panel: Rothschild and Walczak will be joined by fellow trial participants plaintiff Christie Rehm, expert science witness and paleontologist Kevin Padian, attorney Richard Katskee from Americans United for Separation of Church and State and scientist Nick Matzke, who was the spokesman for the National Center for Science Education during the trial, for a panel discussion marking the trial's 10-year anniversary.

The celebration of the victory will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, in The Gallery at the Appalachian Brewing Co. at 50 N. Cameron St. in Harrisburg.

"I think it's a good opportunity for some key participants to reflect on what it was like to go through the case, to tell a few war stories and how it has impacted their lives," Walczak said.

A memory that stood out for Rothschild was the day he received the email containing Judge John E. Jones' ruling.

"In those couple of hours our clients filtered in, and they're people we're still friends with now," he said. "These people just really extended themselves into their community, and I feel like that ruling had to be of great vindication. That's a moment that gets me choked up."

Entertainment: The controversial debate between evolution and creationism is one that has been conveyed across platforms, from movies to theatrical plays and even to rap music.

"It takes a certain base kind of impatient mind to explain away nature with 'intelligent design,'" musician Baba Brinkman raps in his song "Natural Selection" from his show "The Rap Guide to Evolution."

Given the context of Brinkman's work, he seemed an obvious choice to provide entertainment for the 10-year reunion of sorts. The panel will be followed by the "Concert for Science and Reason" performed by the Canadian rap artist, writer and actor.

"When we had our five-year reunion he did his rap show about evolution, and it was amazing," Rothschild said.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door and can be purchased on the ACLU's website.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at