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Date: 02-08-2024

Case Style:

Michael Man v. Competitive Institute, et al.

Case Number: 2012 CA 8263

Judge: Alfred S. Irving, Jr.

Court: District of Columbia Superior Court

Plaintiff's Attorney: John B. Williams, et al.

Defendant's Attorney: Victoria Weatherford for Rand Simberg

Clifton S. Elgarten, et al. for Mark Steyn

Description: Washington, DC personal injury lawyer represented the Plaintiff who sued the Defendants on defamation law theories.

Michael Mann, the climate scientist who developed and published the "hockey stick" graph showing the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, claimed that he was defamed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Randy Simberg, Mark Steyne, et al. who said that “Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except for instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data,” Simberg wrote. Another writer, Mark Steyn, later referenced Simberg’s article in his own piece in National Review, calling Mann’s research “fraudulent.”

Defendants denied wrongdoing.

Court Opinion:

"On July 13, 2012, Defendant Rand Simberg (“Mr. Simberg”) submitted to Defendant
Competitive Enterprise Institute’s (“CEI”) Open Market weblog an article entitled “The Other
Scandal in Unhappy Valley” (the “Simberg Article”). The Simberg Article concerned and
criticized the work of Plaintiff Michael E. Mann (“Plaintiff”), who, in the late nineteen nineties,
published research on climate change known as the hockey stick graph. CEI published the
Simberg Article on the same day of Mr. Simberg’s submission.

On October 22, 2012, Plaintiff filed a complaint averring that the Simberg Article
defamed him. On December 15, 2012, the CEI Defendants filed a special motion to dismiss the
complaint under the District of Columbia’s Anti-SLAPP Act. On June 28, 2013, Plaintiff moved
to amend the complaint, which motion the Hon. Natalia M. Combs-Greene granted on July 10,
2013. On July 19, 2013, Judge Combs-Greene denied CEI and Mr. Simberg’s special motion to
dismiss. On July 24, 2013, the CEI Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s amended complaint,
under the Anti-SLAPP Act. On August 20, 2013, the Presiding Judge of the Civil Division
transferred the matter to the Civil I Calendar, over which then-Associate Judge Frederick H.
Weisberg presided.

In the meantime, on September 17, 2013, the CEI Defendants noticed an appeal of
Judge Combs-Greene’s denial of their special motion to dismiss. On January 22, 2014,
Judge Weisberg denied CEI and Mr. Simberg’s second-filed special motion to dismiss. On
January 24, 2014, the CEI Defendants noticed another appeal.

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the denials of the special motions to
dismiss, in part, and reversed, in part. See Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Mann, 150 A.3d 1213
(D.C. 2016). The Court of Appeals denied a petition for rehearing, but amended its opinion
slightly in 2018. See Competitive Enter. Inst. v. Mann, 150 A.3d 1213 (D.C. 2016), as amended
(Dec. 13, 2018) (hereinafter “CEI”). The United States Supreme Court denied petitions for writ
of certiorari, with Justice Samuel Alito writing a dissent. See Nat’l Review, Inc. v. Mann, 140 S.
Ct. 344 (2019) (Alito, J., dissenting).

The Court of Appeals’ opinion answered questions of first impression related to the Anti-
SLAPP Act and offered an extensive factual analysis of the instant case guided by relevant law.

On May 31, 2019, the Hon. Jennifer M. Anderson dismissed a number of counts set forth in
Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint. The surviving claims against CEI and Mr. Simberg are the
defamation claims arising out of factual statements contained in the Simberg Article."

Outcome: Summary judgement in favor of Competitive Enterprise Institute and National Review, Inc.

After a day of deliberations, the jury ruled that Simberg and Steyn defamed Mann through some of their statements. The compensatory damages were just $1 for each writer. But the punitive damages were larger. The jury ordered Simberg to pay Mann $1000 in punitive damages; it ordered Steyn to pay $1 million in punitive damages.

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