If the defamation lawsuit against writer Mark Steyn keeps chugging forward toward the courtroom, grab the popcorn. It may be among the most crucial First Amendment cases to affect freedom of speech for decades to come. Not to mention entertaining as hell.
Steyn comes to Washington Tuesday for a hearing at the D.C. Court of Appeals. Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State, filed the lawsuit against Steyn, National Review, space policy and tech analyst Rand Simberg and the Libertarian-bent Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in 2012.
All parties have lawyered up. They all have different legal representation with the exception of Simberg, who is clumped in with CEI.
In a 270-word blog post published in July of 2012 for National Review, Steyn called Mann’s “hockey stick” theory about climate “fraudulent.” According to Steyn, Mann’s theory is the “single most influential image” in “Big Climate alarmism.” He also quoted Simberg, who called Mann “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science.” Mann threatened to sue if Steyn and National Review didn’t remove the post. They didn’t, and here we are — headed to court in the morning.
Steyn is coming to the hearing as a “friend of the court.” He says, “I am the least friendly friend of the court they will ever see [as I figure out] how to get back with my family to eat turkey.”
In an amicus brief “in support of neither party,” Steyn spells out his views. He cracks on Mann repeatedly for lying in his court filings. “The audacity of the falsehoods in Mann’s court pleadings is breathtaking,” states the brief. One sticky point he brings up repeatedly is Mann’s claim to be a Nobel Prize winner: “It is deeply disturbing that a plaintiff should make such fraudulent claims in his legal pleadings. It is even more disturbing that the first such fraudulent claim — to be a Nobel Laureate and thus in the pantheon of Banting, Einstein and Curies — should have led to the amended complaint and procedural delays that then followed.”
He urged the court to act swiftly: “Mark Steyn brings this brief in support of neither affirmance or reversal, but instead in support of an expeditious ruling on the matter.”
Steyn joked there’s nothing more convenient than a court “shedduling” an appearance two days before Thanksgiving. “That’s incredibly helpful,” he told The Mirror through a sometimes impossibly thick British accent in a phone interview from New Hampshire, where he lives. He said he resides 20 miles south of the Quebec border “because you never know when you’ll have to flee in a hurry.”
Let’s be clear: Steyn is not fleeing. He wants a trial. His legal team is headed up by the Yale bred Dan Kornstein.
Steyn insists Mann is waiting out the clock so that everyone he’s suing will be good and broke if they ever get remotely near the prospect of a trial. The journalist, however, is plowing ahead, raising money and prepping himself for a trial he’s dying to see happen.
The case is already on its second judge — the first one applied for “senior status” (meaning she’ll work part time and get full pay) and was accepted. The second, says Steyn, seems to be more on top of things, but has been unable to restore a timely process.
Which frankly pisses Steyn off.
“This is what is so appalling about it,” said the journalist, who makes endless fun of the American legal system in a routine better fit for open mic night at a comedy club: “If this guy Dr. Mann feels he’s being defamed then he should, like Oscar Wilde, get in court and have the manner settled. There is no right to a speedy trial…but you know, defamation is serious and more injurious to one’s reputation than bouncing a check for $30 at the general store. It’s more injurious than a parking ticket, than doing 45 in a 30 mile speed limit. [There’s the right to a speedy trial], but not for defamation. Nuts to that.”