Mike Mann’s Hockey Check

December 19, 2014


Above, Dr. Michael Mann displays his court awarded damages check, won against the climate and science denying, fossil fuel funded “think” tank,  “American Traditions Institute” aka, the “Energy & Environment Legal Institute”, after judges realized that actions against Dr. Mann were pure anti-science harassment and had no basis in fact.

Dr. Mann donated the check to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, an organization devoted to providing a legal bulwark against attacks on climate science and scientists.

Holding the check with Dr. Mann, from left to right, CSLDF Executive Director Lauren Kurtz, and Board members Charles Zeller, Scott Mandia, and Josh Wolfe. The picture was taken December 18, 2014, in San Francisco, at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.

Charlottesville News Advance, July 13, 2014:

It’s not the size of the penalty, it’s the principle behind it, but that principle depends on which side you’re on.

The state Supreme Court has ordered the nonprofit Energy & Environment Legal Institute to pay $250 in damages to former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann and the school following the institute’s failed legal bid to obtain Mann’s emails regarding climate change research.

The institute, formerly known as the American Tradition Institute, filed the suit in 2011, after UVa refused to turn over about 12,000 emails requested under the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Mann, now a professor and researcher at Penn State University, said that while the amount is small, the principle is large.

“The damages in my view are symbolic,” he said. “What is important is not the $250 itself but the recognition by the court of the frivolous and pernicious nature of the [institute’s] suit.”

Mann called the institute “an industry front” that targets climate researchers “with vexatious freedom of information requests to intimidate scientists” whose findings are “perceived as a threat” to the fossil fuel industry.

Mann said he would donate the $250 to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, which exists to assist scientists being attacked like he says he was.

But we know that climate Denial, like racism, will not die easily.
After the decision, Energy and Environment Legal Institute Counsel David Schnare told journalists, “Although the group did not get access notes and emails, the court did clarify how not to go about acquiring such information via FOI requests. I hope that our learning experience will help all other like-minded groups to pursue the documents.
This story isn’t over.”

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund will insure that legitimate scientists have somewhere to turn in the face of attacks ginned up by hatred, greed, and ignorance.
Below, my interview with CSLDF Director Lauren Kurtz.




9 Responses to “Mike Mann’s Hockey Check”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    If the penalty is that laughably low, there’s nothing to discourage the Denierverse from continuing to tarnish the reputations of scientists.

    • ubrew12 Says:

      Judges get to feel good about themselves AND pocket that fossil fuel check probably worth 50 times Dr Mann’s award.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      the case has not been cost free for the ATI gang. This thing tied up money and lawyers for quite a long while, and kept them from getting into other mischief.

      The result is worse than just a dry hole for them, in that it sets a precedent that presumably may deter future actions such as this, or at least give them pause to find a new approach.
      Legal eagles weigh in, but my understanding is that the 250 is a threshold beyond which some additional proceeding would be required, potentially a burden to all concerned.

      • I asked a legal eagle to respond to Greenman’s comment. She replied to my email instead.

        Hi Charles,

        I agree with Peter — it’s not like this was an inexpensive gambit for ATI.

        So this may all be more detail than you want, but I went back and reviewed the written VA Supreme Court decision. The April 2014 decision itself (which affirmed the lower court’s decision) doesn’t award damages; there was a separate damages award entered a few months later in July 2014. I’ve attached the court’s damages award entry, which doesn’t give any details on why they awarded $250 in damages — it just says “The appellants shall pay to the appellees two hundred and fifty dollars damages.”

        As you know, I’m not a Virginia attorney, but after further research, it appears that court-ordered damages payments are actually standard for an appellate decision that affirms a lower court decision. So the Virginia courts actually have a built-in “punishment” for someone who loses and then brings a meritless appeal. See Virginia Code § 8.01-682, which says that “When any judgment is affirmed, damages shall be awarded to the appellee….the damages shall be such specific sum as the appellate court may deem reasonable, not being more than $2,500 nor less than $150.” I don’t know why the Virginia Supreme Court made the damages $250 instead of $150 or $2,500 (which is what I think they should have done 🙂

        But, any way you look at it, ATI has continued to fight a meritless battle. They lost the case at every level, and the Virginia Supreme Court basically fined them for wasting the state’s judicial resources with their appeal. I also think Peter is right, for additional damages to be awarded outside of the automatic damages of Virginia Code § 8.01-682, the University of Virginia would have needed to brought a separate claim seeking damages, which they did not do.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    The hell with “symbolic” victories. The SPLC managed to put a huge dent in the KKK by winning million+ dollar judgments against them. The climate denial “think tanks” need to be put out of business the same way. Hit ’em in the pocketbook big-time, because “the story isn’t over” as long as the fossil fuel interests are willing to fund the shills—-at the $250 per “loss” level, they’ll never even notice.

    And this statement makes me want to hit the arrogant sore loser SOB.

    “….the court did clarify how not to go about acquiring such information via FOI requests. I hope that our learning experience will help all other like-minded groups to pursue the documents”.

  3. $250??? Damn, that’s proof positive that he’s in it for the big money!!!


  4. indy222 Says:

    Got to concur – the size of the award IS the point – it sends a powerful message: huge reward/risk ratio for the rabid denialist right wing. I doubt the Kochs and their ilk with their bespeckled eyes can see that far down the list of digits to notice the ding in their wallets. When I saw the headline, I was looking forward to taking the picture of Mann and check and re-posting it. Nope.

  5. Yes, let’s up the ante. But look to folks like Carbon Tracker Initiative. They are making an impact because they are finance savvy specialist that remind financiers that there is a risk investing in Fossil Fuels.

    Now where’s that guy that owes me a steak?

  6. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    An excellent moral victory!
    However, moral victories are only appreciated by those with morals.

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