Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed a petition requesting that the District of Columbia Court of Appeals rehear, before the Court’s full set of judges, a case involving Michael Mann’s defamation allegations against CEI and National Review. The petition argues that the December ruling by a three-judge panel of the court was based on two legal errors that transform libel law in our nation’s capital to allow far more lawsuits challenging political and policy commentary on our news channels, in print, and online.
“The panel’s ruling is based on several major errors that threaten the First Amendment freedoms of those who debate and comment on public policy issues,” said CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman. “Under current law, commentary that is based on underlying facts is protected by the Constitution. With no explanation, the panel’s ruling now severely limits this basic protection.”
According to CEI’s petition, the panel’s December ruling also treated government reports on controversial issues, such as Michael Mann’s “hide the decline” Climategate email, as indisputable. As a result, the ruling throttles challenges to the government’s conclusions regarding public disputes—the type of speech that lies at the heart of the First Amendment.
“CEI defends free speech and open debate, and we are optimistic that we’ll prevail in this case,” said Kazman. “We will continue to fight against those who seek to punish speech on controversial issues, including Mann, who has an extensive history of attacking those who disagree with him.”
CEI is represented by Andrew Grossman, partner at BakerHostetler. Amicus briefs in support of CEI are expected to be filed over the next week. In the first round of briefing to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, CEI and National Review were supported by a broad coalition of First Amendment groups, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the American Society of News Editors, the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the parent companies of The New York Times and The Washington Post.