Brief Amici Curiae of Reason Foundation, Cato Institute, Individual Rights Foundation, and Goldwater Institute
Competitive Enterprise Institute/National Review, Inc. v. Michael E. Mann
It is a core First Amendment principle that courts grant maximum protection to speech about matters of public concern-all the more so when the subject of the speech is a public figure. In this case, defendants’ speech criticized the scientific method used by Dr. Mann, a very public figure whose scientific work has played a role in causing massive policy changes in government.
This is not only the paradigm for how the marketplace of ideas is supposed to work, it represents the essence of the scientific method. Scientists of all stripes develop hypotheses, test them, and publish their work for fellow scientists and the public to review. Sometimes the review is not civil. Sometimes it is brutal. That is to be expected, particularly where, as here, the scientific issues have led to huge changes in government policy and there is a substantial body of commentary raising questions about Dr. Mann’s methods.
The point in this appeal is that courts should not be coming up with new terms like “scientific fraud” to squeeze debate over scientific issues impacting government policy into ordinary libel law. Dr. Mann is not like a corner butcher falsely accused of putting his thumb on the scale or mixing horsemeat into the ground beef. He is a vocal leader in a school of scientific thought that has had major impact on government policies. Public figures like Dr. Mann must not be allowed use the courts to muzzle their critics when they face sharp criticism. Instead, as the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly taught, the marketplace of ideas resolves the dispute. Courts have a checkered history when they have waded into scientific disputes. This Court should let the debate continue, outside the judicial system.