The Blog

New Legal Attacks on Climate Science Community: Climate Blogger Sued for $2 Million for “Conspiracy”

In the newest variation of legal attacks on climate science, tandem lawsuits were filed against climate science blogger and computer scientist John Mashey, in retaliation for his work to uncover academic misconduct by several researchers who disputed widely-accepted findings on global warming.  (There is a 97% scientific consensus that man-made climate change is happening.)  Two of these researchers, Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said, served Mashey with complaints this spring, claiming that Mashey’s work connecting them with plagiarism, falsifications, errors, and funding misuse constituted “tortious interference with contract” and “conspiracy” — and claiming that because of this, he owed them millions of dollars in damages.

Wegman and Said were among the authors of the 2006 “Wegman Report,” which has since been discredited by Mashey and many others, and which was originally commissioned by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) as part of a Congressional investigation of climate scientists.  Subsequent work by Wegman and Said, based on the Wegman Report, was later retracted for plagiarism and the investigations themselves were criticized as “political intimidation.”

In their lawsuits, Wegman and Said claimed that because Mashey had voiced his findings of plagiarism and misconduct regarding the Wegman Report and other work, and otherwise “injured [their] reputation[s],” they were “forced to resign” from positions as editors of an academic journal, causing them to lose profits “as well as the ability to edit and publish, and the professional prestige and credibility such a position entails.”  Wegman and Said sought an astonishing $2 million in economic and punitive damages from Mashey, plus reimbursement for their legal fees.  (In a particularly strange twist given the plagiarism concerns, their attorney Milton Johns is currently chair of his local school board.)

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund has stepped in to pay Mashey’s legal defense costs, which have already totaled more than $15,000.  Sadly, legal bills in the tens of thousands of dollars – or more – are not uncommon for those subjected to harassing legal attacks, not to mention the substantial time drains and mental anguish such litigation can cause defendants (especially in cases that drag on for years, as is often the case).  Mashey’s litigation also illustrates that the entire climate science community is at risk for becoming collateral damage in the “street fight” on climate science.

There is a silver lining here:  several weeks after Mashey’s attorneys filed dual motions to dismiss, and days before a court-scheduled hearing on the matter, both Wegman and Said withdrew their complaints against Mashey.  The withdrawals were filed without explanation and “without prejudice,” meaning the plaintiffs may re-file at any time, a very real danger – but it also means that Mashey is no longer being subjected to the hassles and expenses of active litigation.  We hope that the plaintiffs have realized their case was frivolous, as well as rife with serious procedural issues.[1]

Unfortunately, legal attacks on the climate science community happen on a regular basis.  Please help us fundraise so that we can continue to fight back against such attacks.  Support of $25, $100, or more will go a long way to ensure that those advancing climate science can continue their important work without worrying about legal harassment slowing them down.

For more on John Mashey’s case, please check out his blog post on the experience here.


[1] As Mashey’s attorneys at Cozen O’Connor wrote in their motions to dismiss, the “consequences of Plaintiff[s’] apparent inability to conjure up a good-faith explanation for [their] plagiarism and pervasive mistakes cannot be laid at Defendant’s feet or blamed on the many other well-regarded climate scientists and academics who drew similar conclusions and also brought such concerns to the attention of [scientific publishers] and the scientific community.”

Mashey’s attorneys also pointed out that the plaintiffs’ attorney deliberately violated procedural obligations using “alarming litigation tactics” – including waiting over a year between filing the first complaint with the court and serving the complaints on Mashey, in order to issue subpoenas and conduct “secret discovery” in the interim and thus “gain a strategic advantage. . . before Defendant was made aware of the lawsuit[s]” against him.

 

Livestream – Fighting Back Against Attacks on Climate Scientists

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund is hosting talks on the legal attacks faced by climate scientists, on Thursday, May 7th, from 6-7:30 pm at Columbia Law School.  Such attacks include harassing open records requests, bad-faith investigations, and attempts to chill research publication.  This lecture will kick off CSLDF’s litigation strategy series at Columbia Law School, and 1.5 CLE credits will be available for attending attorneys.  RSVP required.

For those who can’t make it in-person, the event will be available online here via livestream and recording — no RSVP needed.  (Unfortunately, no CLE credit is available for online viewings.)  If you’re having trouble seeing the video below, please click here.

We hope you can come / tune in!

 

Our First Executive Director

To all our supporters,

“After years of attacks, I am thrilled that there is a world class litigator whose full time job is to stand up for scientists.” –Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund is excited to announce the hiring of Lauren Kurtz as its first Executive Director. Thank you to everyone who donated money to the fund and made this possible. Her first day is today and feel free to reach out to her with thoughts, ideas and words of encouragement as she takes on the important job of defending the scientific community from politically motivated attacks. She can be reached at lkurtz@climatesciencedefensefund.org

Lauren is joining CSLDF from Dechert LLP, a top tier law firm after a multi-month hiring process. At Dechert she served as project manager on a high-profile $3 billion litigation initiative and she represented commercial and individual clients on cases involving FOIA requests and litigation over FOIA requests, discovery disputes, and defamation claims. Prior to working at Dechert, she held legal and policy positions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  She has a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and a master’s in Environmental Policy from the University of Pennsylvania. She will be based in NYC working in an office generously provided by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at the Columbia Law School.

Thank you again for all your support,

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund Board of Directors

We’re Hiring — Executive Director

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund is excited to announce that we are looking for our first executive director.  The position will be based in NYC at the offices of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

Responsibilities

  • Leading and growing the organization
  • Providing guidance to scientists
  • Organizing legal education efforts
  • Fundraising experience is a plus
  • Selecting and overseeing CSLDF’s involvement in litigation
  • Media and press outreach
  • Partner organization relationship management
  • Speaking at scientific events

Experience and Skills

  • J.D. plus 4-6 years law firm, advocacy, or government experience as a general litigator (scientific background is not required).
  • Excellent oral and written communications skills, especially the ability to translate complicated subjects to non-experts

To apply:

Please submit your CV, cover letter, and law school transcript to director@climatesciencedefensefund.org

Reasons to Celebrate

Back in 2011, the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund came together in response to the mounting legal bills of Dr. Michael Mann in protecting his email correspondence. The litigation has been ongoing for the last several years and yesterday the Virginia Supreme Court ruled in Dr. Mann’s favor. His emails and the emails that colleagues from around the world included him on will be protected from groups whose only purpose is to distract from legitimate scientific discussions. For more on the ruling see click here for the Washington Post article.

A second reason to celebrate is that through our winter fundraiser, we have raised enough money to hire our first executive director. While we are proud of the work done by volunteers in their kitchens, we are prouder that the efforts of the our supporters, volunteers and donors have reached a point where there will be a full time position created whose sole charge is to defend scientists. We are still working on the next steps and please check back for additional updates in the coming weeks. Our deepest thanks to everyone that made both of these reasons to celebrate possible.

 

 

Climate Science Legal Defense Fund Needs Your Help!

The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund (CSLDF) was launched in January 2012 by Scott Mandia and Joshua Wolfe to provide valuable legal resources to our climate scientists who are in need. CSLDF needs your help.

CSLDF needs to raise $80,000. The great news is that philanthropist Charles Zeller has graciously offered to MATCH the first $40,000 that is raised and philanthropist Peter Cross has offered to put up the first $10,000. This means CSLDF already has the first $20,000 and needs only to raise another $30,000 in private donations to reach the goal. We need your to help CSLDF reach this goal.

For the previous two years, CSLDF has been managed by Scott and Josh “from their kitchens” They both have full-time jobs and families with small children and neither receives compensation for their time. Scott and Josh have accomplished much over the years on a part-time basis. To date, CSLDF has:

  • Raised litigation fees to help Dr. Michael Mann defend climate science from politically-motivated witch-hunts.
  • Provided resources to legal experts from PEER so they could offer free legal advice to scientists at professional conferences.
  • Offered legal counsel to scientists hit with frivolous Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • Provided legal workshops to scientists at professional conferences.
  • Offered a series of legal education webinars partnering with American Geophysical Union (AGU).

But now it is time to “go professional” and that is where you can help. $80,000 can move the organization to this next level. CSLDF will use your tax-deductible donations to hire a full-time Executive Director who will manage the day to day operations of providing legal help to our experts as well as increasing fundraising efforts. Having the full-time professional helps to assure that CSLDF will be there for our scientists years down the road. After all, climate change is not going anywhere and the sad fact is that neither will the legal attacks on our scientists.

Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent by visiting the CSLDF website at climatesciencedefensefund.org and clicking the Donate button. Donations are sent to our fiscal sponsor PEER but are earmarked for CSLDF. Through PEER, a private non-profit organization organized under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue code, your contribution will be tax deductible.

You can also send a check made out to PEER, with Climate Science LDF on the memo line, to support effort to help scientists defend themselves:
Climate Science Legal Defense Fund
c/o PEER
2000 P Street, NW #240
Washington, D.C. 20036

International donors can use PayPal. Send to info@peer.org as the recipient and put CSLDF in the subject line of your payment.

AGU 2013

This will be our second year at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. We are bringing a great program of legal education events this year. Please share this information with any colleagues of yours that would find it useful.

One-on-One Availability With an Attorney

For the entirety of AGU, the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund will be making available an attorney for private confidential meetings in Moscone South Mezzanine Room 264. To schedule a time email us at lawyer@climatesciencedefensefund.org or sign up outside the room if you would prefer not to put your name down.

Facing Legal Attack: Scientists Tell Their Stories
12 December 2013, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Moscone North Rooms 130-131

Join us for a brown-bag lunch with a panel of scientists who have experienced legal repercussions for their scientific work. Andy Dessler, Katherine Hayhoe, Michael Mann, Naomi Oreskes, Ben Santer, and Kevin Trenberth will all share their stories regarding legal issues and answer your questions. An attorney from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) will moderate the discussion and offer insight from a legal perspective.

Exhibit Hall

You don’t have any pressing legal concerns but you just want to say hi and see what we are up to. Maybe you just want a CSLDF sticker for you water bottle. Please visit us at booth #917

New Climate Science Legal Defense Fund T-Shirts

 

As the summer progresses, we are still raising funds towards our $35,000 goal. Help us get there by purchasing one of our red CSLDF t-shirts. Our supporters in the US can purchase the t-shirt here. T-shirts are $30 and go a long way to helping us provide legal services to the climate science community. International donors please add $10 for shipping and send the donation via paypal to info@peer.org. In your donation specify the size of t-shirt.

Thanks for your continued support,
Joshua Wolfe & Scott Mandia
www.climatesciencedefensefund.org

Climate Science Legal Defense Fund Summer Fundraiser

Thanks to everyone who has supported our growth and development to date. We have had great successes in our first year and half and we hope to continue to build on those. To continue our programing through the end of the year we need to raise $35,000 this summer and need your help to reach our goal. The money will go to two projects of ours. First, it will retire the debt owed by Dr. Michael Mann for attorney’s fees in the FOIA case over his UVA emails. Read more about the case here.

The money will also go towards continuing our program of sending attorneys to scientific meetings. There we offer confidential pro-bono meetings for members of the scientific community. After meeting with an attorney at the American Geophysical Union conference last December, one scientist wrote us: “I was glad to be able to talk to an attorney who deeply cared about the integrity of the science and helping individual scientists. I am very grateful to the CSLDF for arranging for these sessions.” We feel that legal defense does not just include blockbuster cases like Dr. Mann’s, but making sure that scientists have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with a legal expert before an issue becomes a problem.

Please consider donating to our summer fundraising drive to make these two programs possible. Donate at www.climatesciencedefensefund.org. International donors can send a PayPal to info@peer.org. You can also receive a t-shirt with your donation by going to: http://climatesciencedefensefund.org/feature/buy-stuff/

Thanks for your support,

Scott and Josh

Climate Science Legal Defense Fund at AGU

Next week more than 20,000 members of the geosciences community gather in San Francisco for the 45th Annual Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. The Climate Science Legal Defense Fund will be there with a full slate of programs and opportunities.

Throughout the conference, CSLDF will have lawyers available for one-on-one meetings with scientists. Please email us at lawyer@climatesciencedefensefund.org to reserve a time. You can also reserve time confidentially between 8am-3pm Monday thru Wednesday at Moscone South: Mezzanine – Room 264

We will be in the exhibit hall at booth #140. Stop by to say hello and find out what we have planned for next year.

You can also spend your lunchtime with CSLDF and hear from lawyers who deal with the challenges that scientists face everyday. Here is the schedule of workshops:

Monday 3 Dec 2012 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
Legal Duties to Preserve and Disclose Scientific Data and Personal Communications
San Francisco Marriott Marquis – Salon 10

Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University will discuss the increasing number of Freedom of Information Act requests and subpoenas that scientists are facing, and what kinds of documents scientists are required to disclose and to whom. Special attention will be devoted to e-mail and social media.

Tuesday 4 Dec 2012 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
The Law for Government Scientists
San Francisco Marriott Marquis – Salon 10

Kit Douglass from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) will discuss how legal provisions that affect you as a government scientist.

Wednesday 5 December 2012 from 12:30 – 1:30PM
An Inside Look at the Michael Mann Case
Moscone South: Mezzanine – Room 226

Peter Fontaine, counsel to Michael Mann and a leader of Cozen O’Connor’s Brownfield Development and Climate Change practices will use examples from recent Freedom of Information Act litigation American Tradition Institute v. University of Virginia to discuss the application of state public records acts to researcher electronic correspondence, the interplay between the Federal FOIA and state laws, practical issues related to document review, potential exemptions to protect correspondence from disclosure, and other legal theories for the protection of correspondence, such as the First Amendment and Academic Freedom, and emerging trends in this dynamic intersection between science and the law.