Earlier this week, Rand Simberg and the Competitive Enterprise Institute replied to Michael Mann’s libel suit. Specifically, they filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and, more interestingly, a special motion to dismiss under the District of Columbia’s Anti-SLAPP Act. As I noted here, Mann exposed himself to this motion by choosing to file his case in D.C. Superior Court.
Under D.C. Code Section 16-5502(b), a defendant in a libel action who is being sued for a written or oral statement made “in connection with an issue of public interest” is entitled to have the suit dismissed unless the plaintiff can show that “the claim is likely to succeed on the merits.” Further, the statute provides that filing the special motion stays discovery proceedings unless particular showings can be made. Given that global warming and climate policy are unquestionably issues of public interest (defined by the statute to include environmental issues), the relevant statements are clearly covered. So in order to prevail Mann will not only have to show that Simberg and CEI made provably false statements of fact concerning him that were defamatory, he will also have to show that Simberg and CEI made knowingly false statements or make their statements in “reckless disregard” of the truth — and that is notoriously difficult to do, particularly in the context of heated political debate. Further, Mann is unlikely to have the benefit of discovery to assist in his claims. Should Simberg and CEI prevail with this motion, they will be able to seek recovery of their legal costs. All of this makes me wonder why Mann chose D.C. as the venue for his suit.