The Stewardess is Flying the Plane
January 24, 2014
Mother Jones today runs a story on the latest developments in "hockey stick" creator Michael Mann's defamation suit against me et al: A Coup For The Climate Scientist Whom Skeptics Compared To Jerry Sandusky. Being interviewed by print journalists is a perilous business, which is why I don't agree to it very often. In this case, as it happens, it was my manager who was misquoted: The words "did not go over well with the judge" are not what she said, and it is puzzling why they appear in quotation marks. Anyway, for those who are interested, here's my interview (conducted a couple of days before Judge Weisberg's recent ruling) with MJ's Mariah Blake in full:
MARIAH BLAKE: What's the status of the case? My understanding is that the appeals court wouldn't hear the appeal of Combs Greene's Anti-SLAPP ruling because the plaintiff filed an amended complaint late in the game and your attorneys filed a renewed Anti-SLAPP motion, which addresses the added count. I also understand that all discovery has been stayed and that Judge Frederick Weisberg is now reviewing the case. But I'm having trouble sorting out what specifically Weisberg is supposed to decide and how the case will proceed from here.
MARK STEYN: Join the club. Procedurally, this case has been a fiasco, even by the standards of American so-called "justice". The responsibility for that rests principally with Judge Combs Greene, and her mismanagement of the case. My understanding is that Judge Weisberg will in effect be starting from scratch. He indicated as much in court and in his ruling staying discovery. But the plaintiff and his Big Tobacco lawyer seem to feel differently. So who knows? That's what makes an American courtroom such a white-knuckle thrill ride for us foreigners.
BLAKE: You've noted in blog posts that you don't think much of Combs Greene's orders. Aside from the obvious errors (confusing defendants, typos, etc) what are your chief concerns about her rulings?
STEYN: Well, I'm surprised that you would say "confusing defendants" is an obvious error. I've been in court in many jurisdictions around the world, and this is the first time I've come up against a judge who can't tell Smith from Jones. That would be pretty basic in Judging 101 in most places, but apparently not in Judge Combs Greene's courtroom. My objection to the judge is pretty simple: She indicated that the case would be too complicated and time-consuming for her, as she subsequently demonstrated in her ruling confusing me with Rand Simberg. So she shopped the case to another judge. Having decided to check out of the case, she then issued a series of drive-by verdicts as she was heading out the door. This simply doesn't pass the smell test. The misplaced reverence for judges in America is perplexing to me. In my cultural tradition, a judge is just a bloke in a wig. He may be a smart bloke in a wig, or he may be an idiot in a wig. But the wig itself is not dispositive. As the English barrister F E Smith is said to have responded when a judge asked if he was trying to show contempt for this court, "No, my Lord. I am attempting to conceal it." I spent the first months attempting to conceal my contempt for Judge Combs Greene's court, but really, it's not worth the effort.
BLAKE: Were there changes made in Mann's amended complaint in addition to the added count? If so what were they? (You mention the Nobel Prize issue in one recent blog post.)
STEYN: The additional count is not the reason for the amended complaint, but merely a rather feeble and desperate pretext. The real reason for the amended complaint is that, in the original, Dr Mann's lawyer charged me with "defamation of a Nobel prize recipient" â€“ a hitherto unknown offence in DC or any other jurisdiction, but one which suffers from the awkward fact that Dr Mann is not a Nobel Laureate. This is not a trivial error â€“ especially from a guy who is suing over his "reputation". Misrepresentation of credentials is a serious offence in academe, and for a scientist there is no more brazen misrepresentation than purporting to be in the same pantheon as Marie Curie, Einstein, Rutherford and Banting. Yet Mann has promoted himself as such on an industrial scale. This fraud gets to the heart of who he is, as a man and a scientist.
BLAKE: What led to the parting of ways between you and Steptoe & Johnson?
STEYN: My decision to fire them.
BLAKE: I understand that Steptoe plans to withdraw as the National Review's counsel as well. Do you know why?
STEYN: Yes. But I am not at liberty to say, alas.
BLAKE: How do you plan to proceed now that you're not working with Steptoe? Have you hired another attorney? Or do you plan to represent yourself?
STEYN: Well, my check from the Koch brothers seems to have been lost in the mail or intercepted by the NSA to pay for their Christmas party, so for the moment I am representing myself. If you know your 1970s disaster movies, it's like Airport '75: the stewardess is flying the plane.
BLAKE: I notice that you haven't done any new posts for the National Review since Dec. 24, whereas normally you're quite prolific. Are you still writing for NRO?
STEYN: Yes, I've noticed that, too. But I am in the current print edition, gently calling for a little bit more of a spirited free speech campaign on this. That's how I won and got the relevant law changed up in Canada.
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