In July 2012, a CEI adjunct analyst posted a column on CEI’s blog, criticizing climate scientist Michael Mann and the 2010 investigation of his work by Penn State, where Dr. Mann teaches. Mann is a leading advocate of global warming alarmism, and was responsible for the controversial and much-disputed hockey stick temperature graph.
Shortly after being posted, the column, “The Other Scandal in Unhappy Valley,” was excerpted by syndicated columnist Mark Steyn in a piece on National Review Online. Dr. Mann demanded a retraction of the article by National Review and, several weeks later, by CEI as well. His demands were rejected. This article became the basis for Mann’s defamation lawsuit against CEI, the adjunct analyst who wrote the piece, National Review and Mark Steyn.
Mann filed his complaint in D.C. Superior Court in October 2012. The defendants responded with motions to dismiss, invoking D.C.’s Anti-SLAPP statute and resting on Mann’s status as public figure. These motions were denied, and three of the defendants (CEI, the adjunct analyst, and National Review) filed an interlocutory appeal of that denial with the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. In April 2014, the appeals court permitted this appeal to go forward on an expedited basis.
A number of amicus briefs were filed in support of the defendants, on behalf of such organizations as the ACLU, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Time, The Washington Post, and dozens of other major First Amendment entities. Oral argument was held in November 2014, before a three-judge panel.
Despite the fast-track status of the case, no ruling was issued until December 22, 2016. The court ruled against CEI, though it did dismiss several of Mann’s counts.
On January 19, 2017, the defendants petitioned for a rehearing en banc, arguing that the court’s decision violates basic principles of First Amendment law. The court held, for example, that several government reports that supposedly exonerated Mann foreclosed the possibility that the defendants’ criticized his work in good faith.
Among the amicus briefs filed in support of rehearing were those of two noted scientists who have been long-time critics of Mann’s work and professional behavior. We are awaiting a ruling on the rehearing petition.