First Amendment at the Supreme Court: Alito dissents in Mann libel case

The Supreme Court refused to take up an appeal by the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute of a defamation lawsuit brought by the Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann. The magazine compared Mann to the convicted pedophile Jerry Sandusky and said instead of molesting children he molested and tortured data. (The Hill, November 25, 2-19, by John Kruzel)

The National Review claimed it was legitimately contesting Mann’s climate change graph, a matter of great public interest, in vigorous debate protected by the First Amendment. The National Review lawyers wrote in their court brief, “the court here exposed every editorial page, political activist, and social-media pundit to a libel suit. The result would be to insert courts and juries into every hot-button political and scientific dispute, to allow politicians to sue their critics at will, and ultimately to chill and deter the robust debate that is the lifeblood of our republic.” In dissent of the Court’s decision, Justice Samuel Alito agreed that the lawsuit should not be heard by a jury. “Whether an academic’s use and presentation of data falls within the range deemed reasonable by those in the field is not an easy matter for lay jurors to assess. … [Also,] [w]hen allegedly defamatory speech concerns a political or social issue that arouses intense feelings, selecting an impartial jury presents special difficulties.” (Washington Examiner, November 25, 2019, by Quin Hillyer)

For earlier FAC coverage click here and here.

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