As many of you know, late on Thursday a Washington, DC jury found that
a) plaintiff Michael E Mann had suffered no actual damages from Steyn's National Review post; but
b) ordered defendant Steyn to pay him one million dollars anyway.
Late on Friday, the otherwise lethargic District of Columbia Superior Court entered the jury's verdict in final judgment.
What happens now? Well, in the next few weeks, there will be certain "renewed" motions from defendants that one is obliged to do, although they are highly unlikely to find favor with Judge Irving. After that, the case will be appealed by all parties - loser Steyn because he wants the decision overturned, and winner Mann because he wants the original corporate defendants, National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, put back in the dock. (Irving, the "fifth trial judge", dismissed them from the case a couple of years back.)
The DC Court of Appeals, being the way it is, is likely to accede to Mann's wishes, but not Steyn's. How long that will take is hard to say, but, given the length of the last merely "interlocutory" appeal, it's unlikely to be quick. At that point, Mark will go to the US Supreme Court. A minimum of four out of nine judges is required to grant a writ of certiorari and hear the case. As Amy K Mitchell noted on Friday, one of them, Samuel Alito, grasped the implications of Mann vs Steyn half-a-decade back:
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. If the Court is serious about protecting freedom of expression, we should grant review.
Justice Alito also foresaw the DC Jury's verdict:
The controversial nature of the whole subject of climate change exacerbates the risk that the jurors' determination will be colored by their preconceptions on the matter. When allegedly defamatory speech concerns a political or social issue that arouses intense feelings, selecting an impartial jury presents special difficulties. And when, as is often the case, allegedly defamatory speech is disseminated nationally, a plaintiff may be able to bring suit in whichever jurisdiction seems likely to have the highest percentage of jurors who are sympathetic to the plaintiff 's point of view.
On that last point, Steve from Manhattan, a Steyn Clubber who attended the early part of the trial, notes:
The official court docket includes handwritten notes to the judge from the jury. I decided today to look at a few of them. Here is a note from one juror to the judge that was filed on January 18th:
'It is well known for my family and friends that I am not a fan of fox news. I wanted to inform the judge [indecipherable] to the sensitivity of this case. I did not recognize the defendant as a fox news host until opening statements.'
Needless to say, this person remained on the jury and voted for a $1 million punitive damages verdict—after recognizing Mark Steyn as a Fox News host.
As Denyse O'Leary puts it in our comments section:
Many people don't understand how serious the problem of Steyn's defeat by the climate lobby is. Let me help:
It becomes risky to criticize climate change claims, no matter how questionable. At at time when governments contemplate destroying agriculture and confining people to within fifteen minutes of their homes in order to fight climate change, any number of whackjob theories will be promoted, always protected by fear of successful legal action against critics.
This at a time when I keep seeing articles whizzing through the science media about the growing problem of questionable or fraudulent research - that the Top People are always "going to" do something about...
Picture the Covid Crazy cubed. If we keep silent and do nothing at this point, we will *earn* a great deal of it. Better to fight the Crazy now.
As it stands, a record-setting million-to-one ratio of punitive to compensatory damages on a matter of public policy is the biggest setback for the First Amendment in over half-a-century. So Steyn cannot accept this verdict, and will push on to the Supreme Court.
We thank Mark's readers around the world for their kind words these last four difficult days. We are also grateful to those who have chosen to support him by taking out membership in The Mark Steyn Club or buying a pal a SteynOnline gift certificate. Many have also chosen to purchase Mark's book on the issues underlying this case, which was banned by Judge Irving from being entered in evidence but for the moment remains available in the real world.
So we appeal, the case goes on, and, given the likelihood of National Review taking down the original post in the weeks ahead, here is Exhibit 0060:
Football and Hockey
'I'm referring to another cover up and whitewash that occurred there two years ago, before we learned how rotten and corrupt the culture at the university was. But now that we know how bad it was, perhaps it's time that we revisit the Michael Mann affair, particularly given how much we've also learned about his and others' hockey-stick deceptions since. Mann could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data in the service of politicized science that could have dire economic consequences for the nation and planet.'
Not sure I'd have extended that metaphor all the way into the locker-room showers with quite the zeal Mr Simberg does, but he has a point. Michael Mann was the man behind the fraudulent climate-change "hockey-stick" graph, the very ringmaster of the tree-ring circus. And, when the East Anglia emails came out, Penn State felt obliged to "investigate" Professor Mann. Graham Spanier, the Penn State president forced to resign over Sandusky, was the same cove who investigated Mann. And, as with Sandusky and Paterno, the college declined to find one of its star names guilty of any wrongdoing.
If an institution is prepared to cover up systemic statutory rape of minors, what won't it cover up? Whether or not he's "the Jerry Sandusky of climate change", he remains the Michael Mann of climate change, in part because his "investigation" by a deeply corrupt administration was a joke.
~from National Review, July 15th 2012
Notwithstanding the stress of Thursday's verdict, we had a very busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with Melissa Howes subbing for Mark on our Clubland Q&A. On Saturday Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer recreated the final moments of Steyn's trial on their daily podcast, and Rick McGinnis's Saturday movie date opted for Gene Hackman in Night Moves. On Sunday Steyn's Song of the Week celebrated the great Valentine love song.
If you were too busy spending the weekend waving the US Constitution at random passers-by, we hope you'll want to check out one or three of the foregoing as a new week begins.