Filmgoers might associate the name Michael Mann with a long list of dramatic motion pictures and television shows, going all the way back to the remarkable 1979 TV movie, “The Jericho Mile.” On the other hand, fans of the long-operative “climate change” drama might be familiar with the same name because it also belongs to a spectacularly incendiary climate theorist who, depending on one’s position regarding valid scientific inquiry, might be seen as a hero or as a supercilious huckster. Either way, the latter Mann certainly seems to be connected to drama of his own, and Thursday, February 8, a jury in the District of Columbia brought observers the latest in the saga, finding in favor of Mann in a defamation suit against commentators Mark Steyn and Rand Simberg.
Mann initiated the action back in 2012, in response to blog posts the two men had written challenging the validity of Mann’s Penn State-based research. Simberg had drawn a comparison between Penn’s investigation into Mann’s questioned work and the same university’s whitewash of sexual predator Jerry Sandusky. Shortly thereafter, Steyn observed that he found the comparison to be apt.
As Jonathan H. Adler reports for Reason, Mann’s initial suit not only targeted the writers, but also the deeper-pocket corporate entities (National Review, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute) for which Steyn and Simberg respectively wrote.
The court eliminated the corporate employers as potential targets, and allowed the case to wind its way to the jury, which offered its verdict and determinations for rewards last week.
“The jury awarded Mann nominal compensatory damages of $1 against each defendant, but then added punitive damage awards of $1 million against Steyn and $1,000 against Simberg. I would think that these damages–if not the verdict itself–are likely to be appealed.”
Indeed, Steyn is going to appeal, and also has a pending separate motion against Mann and his team for “Sanctions for Bad-Faith Trial Misconduct.”
Steyn believes that, on appeal, Supreme Court will see the punitive damages lowered.
And Adler appears to agree:
“The punitive damages would seem to be the most vulnerable part of the judgment. Under existing Supreme Court precedent, excessive punitive damages violate Due Process. So, for example, in BMW of North America v. Gore, the Court held that a punitive damage award of $2 million was excessive given that the plaintiff had only been awarded $2,000 in compensatory damages. This 1000-to-1 ratio, the Court held, could not be justified even considering the extent to which the defendant had engaged in egregious conduct.”
Steyn’s “Clubland Q and A” from February 9 also stresses the astronomically high “compensatory damages award” of $1 million, and cites it as a big red flag:
“The latter number will likely get overturned at the United States Supreme Court, which generally reckons that ‘in practice, few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process’ - and that's when ‘the defamatory statements do not involve matters of public concern’. A ‘single-digit ratio’ means four-to-one, five-to-one punitive-to-compensatory. Steyn's jurors just set a record - a million-to-one ratio.”
Perhaps such an absurdly inflated number might seem theatrically apropos for a drama involving a “climate” theorist whose work numerous critics claim also absurdly inflates the so-called “threat” of anthropogenic “climate change…”
And it is on that detail-oriented front that observers likely will be disappointed by these legal proceedings.
While many members of the climate-cultish pop media are heralding the verdict as vindication of the vaunted Mann and his research, those looking for a thorough court battle on the science will be disappointed both by the court proceedings and the jury verdict.
The judge told the jury that the case was not about the climate issue, and, in fact, the jury didn’t decide on the strength or weakness of Mann’s theories or methods. They focused on the labels and polemical terms that Simberg (and, by extension, Steyn) used to describe how Penn handled Mann. Specifically, it was the Jerry Sandusky reference that seems to have sealed the proverbial defamation fate.
Those wanting an open, in-court, debate on Mann’s methods and theories will not be satisfied by this new case.
But they need not search this immediate conflict for that.
In fact, Mann already has lost a 2019 case in the British Columbia Supreme Court that saw him attempt to (shocker) cite a critic for libel, and then refuse to present his data and methods to the court.
“Climate ‘scientist’ Michael Mann, inventor of the discredited ‘hockey stick,’ just won a $1 million judgment from popular conservative commentator Mark Steyn in a U.S. court, effectively criminalizing Free Speech.”
On the previous case, he writes:
“Mann sued the late Dr. Tim Ball in Canada over his authoritative criticism of the hockey stick. Ball cleaned Mann’s clock in the Canada Supreme Court.”
Indeed, looking at the big Canadian case, one suspects that Mann might have been anticipating Ball to offer a monetary settlement, but Ball stood his ground and welcomed the case in trial, which then required Mann to present his data and make an argument – something Mann was unwilling to do.
“I wrote in Global Warming Activist Michael Mann Demands Censorship Of Dissenters in 2021,
Michael Mann is the discredited climate scientist who fabricated the infamous ‘hockey stick’ model of global warming. His answer to critics like Dr. Tim Ball is to sue them. Now he wants all dissenters forcibly censored and removed from public discussion. This is how the ‘science is settled’ by pseudo-science ideologues.
Climate alarmists like Mann cannot stand up to the traditional rigor of scientific debate, so their only defense is to simply shut critics out of the discussion. This is why Mann repeatedly attacked Dr. Tim Ball, an eminent climate scientist in Canada. Mann lost his defamation lawsuit against Ball in the BC Supreme Court in 2019.”
And he notes:
“In 2017, Principia Scientific wrote about Mann:
Penn State climate scientist Michael ‘hockey stick’ Mann commits contempt of court in the ‘climate science trial of the century.’ Prominent alarmist shockingly defies judge and refuses to surrender data for open court examination. Only possible outcome: Mann’s humiliation, defeat and likely criminal investigation in the U.S.
The defendant in the libel trial, the 79-year-old Canadian climatologist, Dr Tim Ball (above, right) is expected to instruct his British Columbia attorneys to trigger mandatory punitive court sanctions, including a ruling that Mann did act with criminal intent when using public funds to commit climate data fraud. Mann’s imminent defeat is set to send shock waves worldwide within the climate science community as the outcome will be both a legal and scientific vindication of U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims that climate scare stories are a ‘hoax.’”
Of course, the pop media conveniently didn’t allow the news shockwaves to spread after that massive Canadian ruling.
Instead, they are taking last week’s defamation verdict and trying to portray it as vindication of Mann’s work.
This is a misreading of the verdict and the case.
Perhaps on appeal, Steyn will be able to get more people worldwide to see that, and we can let more folks know about the previous case Mann already lost.