D.C. Court of Appeals Allows Prominent Climate Scientist’s Defamation Suit to Proceed

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Dr. Michael Mann is a prominent climate scientist who is well-known for his “hockey stick” graph depicting a dramatic increase in global temperatures during the 20th century. On July 13, 2012, Rand Simberg published a blog entry titled “The Other Scandal in Unhappy Valley,” which compared Dr. Mann’s research to Jerry Sandusky’s child-abuse scandal at Penn State University. “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in service of politicized science that could have dire consequences for the nation and planet.” Two days later, Mark Steyn published an article on National Review’s blog titled “Football and Hockey,” which, according to the court, “continued the theme of personal attack and innuendo against Dr. Mann commenced in Mr. Simberg’s article.”

On October 22, 2012, after an unsuccessful effort to obtain a retraction and apology, Dr. Mann sued Simberg, Steyn, National Review, and others for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The trial court denied Simberg’s and Steyn’s motions to dismiss, concluding that Dr. Mann’s claims were “likely to succeed on the merits.”

On December 22, 2016, in a 105-page opinion, the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed, in part,1 the trial court’s decision, concluding that “Dr. Mann has supplied sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find, by a preponderance of the evidence, that statements in the articles written by Mr. Simberg and Mr. Steyn were false, defamatory, and published by appellants to third parties, and, by clear and convincing evidence, that appellants did so with actual malice.” Dr. Mann’s defamation claims will now go forward in D.C. Superior Court.

The opinion of the D.C. Court of Appeals is available here:  http://www.dccourts.gov/internet/documents/14-CV-101_14-CV-126.pdf


1 The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of a motion to dismiss by National Review editor Rich Lowry, finding that “Mr. Lowry’s editorial does not repeat or endorse the factual assertions that Dr. Mann engaged in deception and misconduct that we have found to be actionable in Mr. Simberg’s and Mr. Steyn’s articles.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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