Supreme Court refuses to hear case involving climate scientist's lawsuit

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up an appeal involving a prominent climate scientist who sued an iconic conservative magazine and libertarian think tank for defamation.

In a closely watched request to the Supreme Court, the National Review and Competitive Enterprise Institute asked the justices to intervene in a suit brought against them by scientist Michael Mann. The case, which pits climate scientists against the free speech rights of global warming skeptics, drew interest from lawmakers, interest groups, academics and media.

The Supreme Court’s denial means it failed to garner the four votes needed to grant an appeal. Justice Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoJustices grapple with multibillion-dollar ObamaCare case Supreme Court denies Trump request to immediately resume federal executions Justices appear cautious of expanding gun rights in NY case MORE dissented from the court’s decision to decline the case.

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“The petition in this case presents questions that go to the very heart of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press: the protection afforded to journalists and others who use harsh language in criticizing opposing advocacy on one of the most important public issues of the day,” Alito wrote.

“If the Court is serious about protecting freedom of expression,” Alito added, “we should grant review.” 

Mann, the plaintiff, is best known among climate scientists for his “hockey stick” graph, which showed a sharp uptick in the earth’s temperatures over the 20th century as carbon emissions from human activity were on the rise.

He later came under fire from skeptics after leaked emails with colleagues fueled accusations of misconduct, in a controversy dubbed “Climategate.” But Mann was ultimately cleared by multiple investigations, including a 2010 review by his employer, Penn State University.

The National Review questioned the university’s findings, however. The magazine accused the school of a whitewash, and Mann of scientific fraud. Writers likened Mann to “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” a reference to the then-recently convicted serial pedophile and former football coach at Penn State.

In a post for the National Review, Steyn quoted the work of a blogger at the libertarian think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, another party to the suit, who said of Mann: “Instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data.”

The defamation case will now continue to proceed through D.C.’s equivalent of state court.

This story was updated at 1:13 p.m.