Michael Mann’s Twelve-Year-Old ‘Defamation’ SLAPP Suit Goes On Trial


Another year, another chapter in the interminable saga of Michael Mann versus American journalism — which, despite the existence of the First Amendment, an array of anti-nuisance lawsuit statutes, and a presumption within American law that tends toward the protection of free speech, has now been a going concern since the summer of 2012.

What’s that old line about justice delayed? [emphasis, links added]

Over time, the details of Mann’s case have changed a little. Until 2021, when we were removed as a defendant on constitutional actual-malice grounds, National Review was a litigant.

Now, Mann’s targets are limited to the writer Mark Steyn, who published a blog post on the National Review’s website in which Mann’s work was harshly criticized, and the writer Rand Simberg, who published a similar post on the website of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. (Like National Review, CEI was also removed from the case in 2021.)

Still, the material question remains the same as it was twelve years ago. That question: Are Americans able to disagree about hotly contested political topics without being harassed, dragged into court on the most specious of pretexts, and subjected to ruinous legal fees?

That more than a decade has passed without the system yielding a resounding “Yes” remains a blot on our national escutcheon.

Before Michael Mann launched his lawsuit, he wrote to an acquaintance that he believed that there was “a possibility that I can ruin National Review.”

This was unbecoming of a man who calls himself a scientist, and it was even more unbecoming of a man who calls himself an American.

The Supreme Court of the United States has observed that the First Amendment represents a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks.”

If it is to mean anything, this promise must apply to everyone; not solely to those people who are in good standing with the bien-pensant class. Does it?

The test of any law is whether it attaches to those who ruffle feathers.

Michael Mann is a darling of fashionable opinion. Mark Steyn is not. Does Steyn enjoy equal protection? On this, the jury is — quite literally — still out.

That Mann’s case is laughably weak has been clear from the start.

To meet the standard laid out in the regnant precedent, New York Times v. Sullivan, Mann’s critics must have met an “actual malice” threshold that neither of them came within a country mile of breaching.

Steyn’s and Simberg’s posts were, indeed, both “vehement” and “caustic,” and, under this country’s longstanding laws, their authors had every right to make them so.

If, in a sop to runaway snowflakery, America’s courts are to be impressed into the adjudication of every abrasive dispute, they will soon have precious little time for anything else, and America will soon have precious little debate.

To be exposed to “libel judgments virtually unlimited in amount,” the Supreme Court has observed, leads inexorably to “self-censorship.”

Bringing about such self-censorship is Michael Mann’s ultimate aim. He ought to receive no help in achieving it from our judiciary.

Will he? Alas, that is still unclear.

This morning, in Washington, D.C., a court is convening to hear Mann’s latest case.

In a country that understood its heritage, the members of that court would insist that their role was not to superintend the discussion of current affairs and laugh Mann out of the room.

The court still can — and, if it doesn’t, God help us all.

Read more at National Review via MSN

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