Supreme Court Refuses Climate Scientists Libel Case

November 25, 2019

The Hill:

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal involving a prominent climate scientist who sued an iconic conservative magazine and libertarian think tank for defamation.

In a closely watched request to the Supreme Court, the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute asked the justices to intervene in a suit brought against them by scientist Michael Mann. The case, which pits climate scientists against the free speech rights of global warming skeptics, drew interest from lawmakers, interest groups, academics and media.

The Supreme Court’s denial means at least four justices declined to take on the case, which is required to grant an appeal. Justice Samuel Alitodissented from the court’s decision to decline the case.

“The petition in this case presents questions that go to the very heart of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press: the protection afforded to journalists and others who use harsh language in criticizing opposing advocacy on one of the most important public issues of the day,” Alito wrote.

“If the Court is serious about protecting freedom of expression,” Alito added, “we should grant review.” 

Mann, the plaintiff, is best known among climate scientists for his “hockey stick” graph, which showed a sharp uptick in the earth’s temperatures over the 20th century as carbon emissions from human activity were on the rise.

He later came under fire from skeptics after leaked emails with colleagues fueled accusations of misconduct, in a controversy dubbed “Climategate.” But Mann was ultimately cleared by multiple investigations, including a 2010 review by his employer, Penn State University.

The National Review questioned the university’s findings, however. The magazine accused the school of a whitewash, and Mann of scientific fraud. Writers likened Mann to “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” a reference to the then-recently convicted serial pedophile and former football coach at Penn State.

“Instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data,” Mark Steyn wrote for the magazine, quoting the work of a blogger at the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, another party to the suit.

The defamation case will now continue to proceed through D.C.’s equivalent of state court.

Here, holiday music from the above mentioned, multi-talented Mark Steyn.

24 Responses to “Supreme Court Refuses Climate Scientists Libel Case”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

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    The Trump Administration has made (yet another) dangerous move that pushes us all closer to the brink of the climate crisis: Trump’s EPA has finalized a proposal to eliminate crucial limits on how much methane — a powerful greenhouse gas — the oil & gas industry is allowed to release into our air.

    President Trump wants to remove our protections, put us at risk, and give industry a free pass to pollute. We need to overwhelm them with opposition to this reckless move.

    Take action today, and demand EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler walk back this attack.

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  2. Bryson Brown Says:

    Alito, eh? Stacking the Supreme court, and courts in general, with right-wing, anti-science extremists has become a key tactic for Republicans. (Coal to Newcastle, I know…) But what can be done about it? Lifetime appointments for extreme ideologues pose a long-term threat to any serious action on climate– and no country on earth can afford to take serious action if the US refuses to join in. Furthermore, Russia’s principal economic resource is oil and gas. Could blocking serious action on climate be the key motive for Putin’s plot to put Trump in office?

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    ““If the Court is serious about protecting freedom of expression,” Alito added, “we should grant review.” “

    And if the court is serious about protecting the rights of those who conduct defamation and libel against liberal climate scientists, it should refuse the case. If the court was serious about NOT protecting citizens from the false propaganda of fossil fuel shills, it should refuse the case.

    “Freedom of expression” has nothing at all to do with libel or defamation.

  4. Paul Whyte Says:

    Sorry, I’m not in the USA. So Michael Mann is suing. What does the decision mean for his case? Does his case go ahead?

    There is a not negative (double negative) going on and it leaves me unsure of the overall outcome.

    Is Mann’s case still going ahead?

    So an appeal was not granted. So it implies that the original case going ahead.
    The spin and counter spin is writ so large its hard to tell.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Generally, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) is the final level of appeal. If they decline to take a case, then the ruling of the lower court stands. If they take a case, they may either support or overturn a lower court’s ruling.

      In this case, the lower court ruled against Mann, so SCOTUS declining to hear it means that Mann lost his suit. This is not surprising, as the Federal courts typically rule in favor of publications’ right to free speech, as when coal baron Bob Murray sued John Oliver and HBO for defamation, and lost.

      Don’t know if you can access this, but you should be able to find a video of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight episode on “SLAPP suits”.

      • lerpo Says:

        That is exactly wrong. The lower court didn’t rule against Mann. The case is in discovery phase in the lower courts. The defendants appealed to the supreme court, but the appeal was denied. The case can now proceed.

        • indy222 Says:

          Mr Whyte is right – there’s too many serial negatives to be 100% sure what that article meant. Bad writing, “Hill”! Nevertheless, I took it the same you you did, lerpo. I hope that’s right.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yes, that’s right—-the case will continue in the lower court until the bastards find some other excuse to appeal and delay. Mann will have NO hair left by the time it’s settled.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yes, that’s right—-the case will continue in the lower court until the bastards find some other excuse to appeal and delay. Mann will have NO hair left by the time it’s settled.

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:


      • I just checked and this is a win for Mann: It was the defendants who were appealing a ruling to SCOTUS, and that ruling was that the case could go ahead.

        Remember that this is about Mann suing the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the National Review and writers for each of them. It’s quite the opposite of a SLAPP suit, we have liars telling defamatory lies and getting dragged into court for their libellous publications.

        (You may be confusing this with the case against Tim Ball, which was dismissed earlier this year on grounds of delay.)

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          D’oh! to you, too.

        • Oscar Bautista Says:

          Yep. The CEI, National Review et al were smearing Mann’s academic reputation by alleging fraud. They were trying to avoid the Discovery phase of the upcoming lawsuit to prevent Mann et al from getting “dirt” on the conservative conspiracy to defame/discredit Mann, including funding sources for the smear campaign.

  5. Paul Rattenbury Says:

    So; a decade later and the Science still stands as vindicated by more than ten years of direct observation of Atmospheric and Ocean temperatures, CO2 and Methane levels, exponential Arctic Ice loss, Species Annihilation etc etc. This only ‘practically ‘ proves that Science is ignored by the Ruling Reptiles and that ‘free-speech’ need contain no Facts what so ever. “Everything is permitted and nothing is true…” The only comfort is that my pessimism is justified. Can anyone prove/disprove my theory that the Aliens are up there laughing their asses off at us ?

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      In the US, the point of “free speech” is to protect unpopular speech. Libel and slander are legally defined much more narrowly than in, say, the UK.

  6. neilrieck Says:

    I think most people would be troubled when a “charge of Libel” is cancelled by another individual’s (or group’s) right to spread Libel as a form of “free speech”. Now we all known that speaking something untrue is called Slander while publishing it (everything from writing it down to reproducing it electronically) is called Libel. Lawyers and judges (including those of the supreme court) are very smart people and already aware of these two categories so I am going to assume that something else is at work here.

  7. Peter A. Dimitriou Says:

    “ The Supreme Court refused on Monday to shield two conservative writers from being sued for defamation by a climate-change expert whom they accused of having “molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science.”

    Over a dissent by Justice Samuel A. Alito, the high court cleared the way for Penn State professor Michael Mann to sue the National Review and the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute for having compared him to the former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was imprisoned for sexual abuse. Both had been investigated by the university.

    In his 2012 article, columnist Mark Steyn said that in Mann’s case, as with Sandusky and football legend Joe Paterno, who was also involved in the sex-abuse scandal, Penn State “declined to find one of its star names guilty of any wrongdoing.” His comment repeated the words of an online columnist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who first made the comparison between Mann and Sandusky.

    Read more here:“

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Why are they favorites? Because they’e so wrong? Because the commenters are so moronic? I can see that.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Why are they favorites? Because they’e so wrong? Because the commenters are so moronic? I can see that.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Do not ask why this comment appeared twice—-ask #%&@** WordPress

      • Canman Says:

        That second link points out that the ACLU, The Washington Post, NBC News, The Los Angeles Times and various others have filed amici briefs against Mann on the basis of free speech rights. No one filed one for Mann!

        Mann is basically suing because his feelings were hurt over (possibly overheated) rhetoric in editorial blog posts! This site is a blog and I would dare say it sometimes includes overheated rhetoric!

        Mann deserves to lose, and I hope the DC courts can act faster on Steyn’s anti-SLAP countersuit!

  8. mboli Says:

    Having listened to 20+minutes of Steyn above, I can report that:
    a) Steyn is indeed funny.
    b) Steyn is full of it.

    I don’t have much of an opinion on the law suits. I don’t know what qualifies as defamation, or enough about the facts.

    “Free speech” doesn’t mean that all speech is equally valuable. Or all speech is equally deserving of protection.

    And Steyn is full of it.

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