Dozens of News and First Amendment Groups Support Free Speech in Libel Lawsuit
WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 – This week dozens of news and First Amendment groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The Washington Post, Gannet, Bloomberg, Time, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the District of Columbia government filed amicus briefs supporting the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and National Review in a libel case filed by climate scientist Michael Mann, which is currently before the D.C. Court of Appeals.
The brief submitted by The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, with the ACLU, The Washington Post and 24 other news organizations, expresses the importance of protecting CEI’s and National Review’s free speech rights:
“While Mann essentially claims that he can silence critics because he is ‘right,’ the judicial system should not be the arbiter of either scientific truth or correct public policy,” reads the brief. “At bottom, a participant in the ‘rough-and-tumble’ of public debate should not be able to use a lawsuit like this to silence his critics, regardless of whether one agrees with Mann or defendants.”
CEI and National Review are asking the appeals court to conclude they engaged in speech protected by the First Amendment and dismiss Mann’s claims under D.C.’s “Anti-SLAPP” Act. “SLAPP” is an acronym for Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation, a type of lawsuit aimed at silencing public policy advocates through litigation.
“As the briefs make clear, anti-SLAPP laws are increasingly important in protecting open debate, and that protection is easily lost when one can stifle speech with abusive litigation,” said Sam Kazman, general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “All Americans engaged in public debate and discourse on contentious political issues will be affected by the outcome of our case.”
In total, six amicus briefs were filed by dozens of organizations; four directly support CEI and National Review. The brief filed by the District of Columbia supports defendants’ right to appeal but takes no position on the merits of the case.
> Read more about the case at cei.org/michaelmann