Stanford prof ordered to pay legal fees after dropping $10 million defamation case against another scientist

From Retraction Watch

A Stanford professor who sued a critic and a scientific journal for $10 million — then dropped the suit — has been ordered to pay the defendants’ legal fees based on a statute “designed to provide for early dismissal of meritless lawsuits filed against people for the exercise of First Amendment rights.”

Mark Jacobson, who studies renewable energy at Stanford, sued in September 2017 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for defamation over a 2017 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that critiqued a 2015 article he had written in the same journal. He sued PNAS and the first author of the paper, Christopher Clack, an executive at a firm that analyzes renewable energy.

At the time, Kenneth White, a lawyer at Southern California firm Brown White & Osborn who frequently blogs at Popehat about legal issues related to free speech, said of the suit:

It’s not incompetently drafted, but it’s clearly vexatious and intended to silence dissent about an alleged scientist’s peer-reviewed article.

In February 2018, following a hearing at which PNAS argued for the case to be dismissed, Jacobson dropped the suit, telling us that he “was expecting them to settle.” The defendants then filed, based on the anti-SLAPP — for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” — statute in Washington, DC, for Jacobson to pay their legal fees.

In April of this year, as noted then by Forbes, District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Carroll Wingo, who has been presiding over the case, ruled that Jacobson would have to pay those fees. In that ruling, Wingo wrote that the Court 

finds that the three asserted “egregious errors” are statements reflecting scientific disagreements, which were appropriately explored and challenged in scientific publications; they simply do not attack Dr. Jacobson’s honesty or accuse him of misconduct.

Jacobson appealed that decision, but Wingo upheld it in a June 25 order.

Jacobson could be on the hook for more than $600,000, the total of what the plaintiffs have told the court were their legal costs — $535,900 for PNAS, and $75,000 for Clack.

Paul Thaler of Cohen Seglias, which has been representing Jacobson, noted in comments to Retraction Watch that the judge had not yet ruled on how much Jacobson should pay:

The Court must now determine the level of attorneys’ fees to charge, which ranges from $0 to the amounts requested by the Clack and NAS attorneys (see legal fee requests and replies for arguments in both directions). Once that is done, Prof. Jacobson will decide whether to appeal the questions of whether the publication of false facts with provable “yes/no” answers (such as the false claim that a table has maximum values when it factually has average values) are indeed questions of fact or of scientific disagreement and whether legal fees are allowed in a case of a voluntary dismissal without prejudice.

Despite dropping the suit, and the judge’s ruling, Jacobson continues to insist in comments to Retraction Watch that there were false claims in the Clack et al paper:

This case has always been about three false factual claims, including two of modeling “errors” or “bugs,” claimed by Dr. Clack and published by NAS that damaged the reputations of myself and my coauthors. What has come out is that the Clack attorney has now admitted in a Court document that Dr. Clack now makes no claim of a “bug in the source code” of our model, despite Dr. Clack’s rampant claim throughout his paper that we made “modeling errors.” Dr. Clack has also admitted in writing that our paper includes Canadian hydropower, yet neither he nor NAS has corrected this admitted error in the Clack Paper. Third, all evidence points to the fact that Table 1 of our paper contains average, not maximum values, indicating that Dr. Clack’s claim regarding modeling error on this issues is factually wrong as well. Thus, it is more clear than ever that the three false facts published by the Clack Authors were indeed false facts and not questions of scientific disagreement. I regret that it was impossible to have these errors corrected upon our first request rather than having to go through this drawn-out process to restore the reputations of myself and my coauthors.

Clack told Retraction Watch that Jacobson’s comments were not an accurate reflection of the paper he and his colleagues published. (For Clack’s responses to each of Jacobson’s claims, see this PDF; for our attempts to fact-check Jacobson’s claims by asking for evidence, see this PDF.) Clark said:

We have had to repeatedly defend against this individual who is unhappy that his responses to critique were not well received and many scientists and the public did not consider his responses adequate to explain the errors and implausible assumptions in his original PNAS paper.

Clack also said:

Jacobson sued myself and PNAS for publishing a critique of his work that he didn’t like. He chose not to sue the entire author team, but rather only myself. To get published in PNAS, we had passed peer reviewed, and editorial reviews; one reason it took so long to publish. There was a lot of information in our paper and there were many, many problems (a lot were contained in the [supplemental information]). We had 21 authors who all worked on the paper, checked the working and agreed on its content and conclusions. Jacobson had an opportunity to respond concurrently with the release of our paper. We just noted the content of his (and coauthors’) PNAS paper and showed that there were assumption issues, errors, mistakes and wrong conclusions drawn from them.

Full Story Here.

HT/RayG

54 thoughts on “Stanford prof ordered to pay legal fees after dropping $10 million defamation case against another scientist

  1. Prof. Jacobson acts like the future of science. Science has always been about punishing your opponents.

    • This bozo went through some type of program where he received his BA, BS, & MS all in 1988. He was entrenched in the all political crap that the worst of Stanford creates … (his mentor/advisor claims to have been THE one to come up with the phrase/concept of nuclear winter … the ‘politics over everything else concept’ seem to have rubbed off on him … 40% of his life, spent at Stanford before getting his PhD, eleven years in of the Stanford Erlich Bubble (his BA was in economics)).

      He claims that “nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions per unit energy than wind energy”. With crap like that it is just too bad that they didn’t get to go court to determine his credibility.

      • I think that Paul Crutzen and John Birks developed the theory of nuclear winter. Perhaps Richard Turko embellished its name. I could ask.

        • You mean the nuclear winter fairy story. Which has nothing to do with nuclear power anyhow.

      • He made that claim based on his presumption that nuclear power would result in a nuclear weapons exchange every 25 years on average. Jacobson then attributed all the dead bodies, burned vegetable debris, etc. to nuclear power generation.

    • Jacobson is masquerading as an energy systems analyst, whereas his education is in environmental sciences.

      I critiqued his reports a few years ago.

      He did not have a nationwide HVDC grid superimposed on existing HVAC grids, a $500 billion item, now he does.

      He did not have enough nationwide storage, now he does.

      Had he been an energy systems analyst, with a few decades of experience in power systems, he would have had those included, but for some time he argued, it was covered or not needed.

      He even defended his flawed approach in Paris, and the assembled RE idiots swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

      • If he had any real expertise- he knowledge would easily have a high demand for his services in the range of $1m + annual salary.

        Anyone notice how many jobs offers he has gotten?

    • No, George, it’s pseudoscience that has always been about punishing your opponents. Science has always been about a better understanding of what is.

    • It seems to me that science has become a magnet for self promoting nutjobs. The sort of people who would be cult leaders or shamans in some other context. They are almost the personification of ‘a little knowledge being a dangerous thing’.

    • Skeptical science continues to cite Jacobson work as the gold standard study on ho to achieve 100% renewable energy

  2. In February 2018, following a hearing at which PNAS argued for the case to be dismissed, Jacobson dropped the suit, telling us that he “was expecting them to settle.”

    I get this impression we are not being give the complete story here. You do not get into 10 million law suits without some serious council. I would expect anyone playing at that poker table would know that you do not just drop you suit on the assumption that someone is going to settle. A settlement is a legally negotiated agreement, not something you kinda thought may happen. If you do not continue the action why would anyone be motivate to give you large chunks of money ? Duh.

    • I understood his comment to mean he sued based on the assumption they would settle and dropped the suit when it was clear they wouldn’t settle …

      • MikeP,

        It that’s the case then Jacobson is admitting the defamation case has no merits and that the anit-slap case does have merits.

    • Presumably he thought he could extort money out of people by black-mailing them with legal fees. He was offering a settlement (probably of only a few hundred thousand) or the lawsuits would continue. When he got to court and the defendents brought a legal team that was fully ready to crush his silly lawsuit into fine powder, mix it with his flopsweat, and use it as warpaint, he realized that they weren’t going to be bullied and dropped the case. Too bad he didn’t realize that they could counter-sue to recoup some of the costs of their defense.

      • Jacobson’s paper said it is possible to power the US on just renewables. Clack’s paper said Bullsh!t.

        • Rick,
          Wind, water and solar.
          No bio, no nuclear, no fossil
          FOR ALL ENERGY, not just for electrical energy!!

          His original capital cost estimate was grossly too low.
          As a result he could claim low cost/kWh.

          The problem was, Germany was furthest along the path of WWS, and its costs/ kWh were increasing, and are now near the highest in Europe.

          That blew his whole low-cost narrative out of the water.

          However, various RE idiots continue to parade him as a godsend, as they do with Gore, and McKibben, etc., and the Media is helping out, just because they do not know any better, and make money by getting attention.

    • It was a quick search, but I found nothing that indicates Jacobsen’s lawyers were working pro bono. So they will still be paid, and therefore don’t care. (Although they may have told him to drop it after getting a look at his bank balance, figuring they had already squeezed as much money out of him as they were going to realistically see.)

      There are very few jurisdictions where a lawyer can be sanctioned for the bringing of meritless nuisance lawsuits. Even where they can be, it takes a major effort to bring the hammer down on them.

    • People get into lawsuits for all kinds of crazy reasons. I’m in a $5m lawsuit right now where the plaintiffs own documents prove they sued the wrong company. We are waiting for trial to show them this. Absolute buffoonery by their lawyers and themselves. I’m getting all the depos on video too. Gonna make a great bitchute upload ;). By the way we are 5 years into this about about half a million in legal fees.

    • He’s more likely billing the Climate Defense Fund, another RICO like organization, this one with deep pockets. Whose pockets I wonder and why I wonder.

      But nice joke anyway.
      ==============

      • Which in reality is only the Climate Alarmist Defense fund. They won’t fund skeptics.

  3. I was hoping this was about Michael Mann, but that would just be too good to be true.

  4. We recently had a decision in the same court (with a different judge) that resulted in Dr. Michael Mann having to pay legal fees. link

    Both Mann and Jacobson launched Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits against critics. I hope it’s a trend that the courts are upholding the letter and the spirit of the anti-SLAPP laws.

      • Since I doubt that Mann was paying, I doubt that a larger settlement would have any affect on him. What DOES have an affect is that he has publicly been whanged and shown up for what he is. It is a hit on his ego that is more effective that the hit to his supporter’s (puppet masters’s) pocket book.

  5. About time such retracted lawsuits require legal costs to be paid. Why on earth should someone totally innocent be forced to be put at a financial disadvantage due to some spurious claim? We have seen such spurious claims being made in Australia which get retracted on the steps of the court, with totally innocent defendants left totally out of pocket as well as emotionally stressed, which should also be compensated for.

    We have seen such spurious claims being used to extort money from people- make a claim based on truly flimsy “evidence” of racial discrimination, then ask for an out of court settlement. Luckily, one such case was defended in court and the extortionist found wanting. Let it be noted that when said hero that stood up to the crybullies spoke before us at a Libertarian conference, he received a standing ovation.

    We even have a couple of serial extortionists in Australia that use spurious claims to shut down free speech. You can just guess their causes and political affiliations. Australians that closely follow the patriotic movements here would know who I am referring to.

    For my own legal protection, I won’t mention names-to protect myself from these crybullies.

  6. “publication of false facts”

    Isn’t “false facts” an oxymoron? If something is false, it can’t be a fact.

      • It’s not “news speak” it was apparently his attorney Paul Thaler of Cohen Seglias, speaking.

        If his attorney can not even master basic English, I guess his legal advice was equally bad. But it’s OK, he was probable chosen for his political leanings rather than his legal competence.

    • A comedian under socialism got famous by a line: This is no fact. It actually happened.

  7. About all I can say is (in my opinion only) if the attorney’s fees are $600,000, they probably provided $50,000 worth of value. The only winners in the litigation are the attorneys… on both sides.

    • This reminds me of an 18th century cartoon called “The Lawsuit” which showed two farmers pulling a cow by its horns and tail, while a lawyer sat on a milking stool milking the cow.

  8. “Wingo wrote that the Court

    finds that the three asserted “egregious errors” are statements reflecting scientific disagreements, which were appropriately explored and challenged in scientific publications; they simply do not attack Dr. Jacobson’s honesty or accuse him of misconduct.”

    If a judge, trained as she is in the law, can see this, then one would expect someone purporting to be a scientist must understand this at a glance. I’m coming to believe that the Anti-SLAPP law may be one of the most important statutes in the US.

    It is well known that the US is the most litigious place on the planet. It was only a matter of time before the web of laws and and rules associated with them became tools of the disruptive Anti-American, Anti-Capitalist far left for sabotaging or interminably delaying projects like pipelines, roads, mining projects, government works, etc. Clearly, even the Anti-SLAPP laws regs are not hard enough on frivolous litigants having to pay for their destructive whim.

    They should have to pay in full for what damage they’ve done, which should include punitive damages if a law like Anti-SLAPP is to work to design. Why on earth should such litigants be given any beneficial treatment or encouragement.

  9. Filing a bogus lawsuit should not be a free way to make money. Filing a bogus lawsuit should result in court costs plus should be investigated by the district attorney. To me it is no different than filing a fake police report.

  10. Some background history to understand this for newcomers:

    Mark Jacobson’s ridiculous claims and his junk engineering RE paper was put together and published ahead of the Paris COP21 where Obama and the rest of the global idiots were to shackle the Western democracies with idiotic CO2 emission limits. Somehow the obvious questions of “how can this destruction of fossil fuel base-load electricity generation not seriously produce blackouts and power interruptions?” had to answered. The Jacobson PNAS-15 paper was supposed to be one of the primary “peer reviewed” energy exhibits to claim it could be done with RE. Everyone with any power industry knowledge knew it was badly done junk engineering from the get-go, but that the media wouldn’t care beyond a peer-reviewed paper and thus they wouldn’t dig any deeper, since it came with a platinum-plated Stanford Professor’s seal of approval.

    John Holdren was the Cheshire Cat grinning in the background at all the lies being told in this WonderLand..

    Like all things in that 2015 Paris COP21 debacle, Obama’s OSTP John Holdren’s fingerprints are all over that Jacobson paper, and also the Tom Karl Pause Buster SciMag paper. Both were key pieces (the Jacobson RE lie, and the Karl Pause Buster buoy data ERSST lie) to the bigger lies of the Obama Admin to cram this Paris Climate Agreement down Americans’ throats backed with lies piled on top of lies. (Of course the Karl paper needed the Exectuive Editor to push the Karl paper thru a quick Pal-Review, and for that SciMag Editor in Chief Marcia McNutt was rewarded 12 months later with the NAS Presidency).

    Bottom line: American’s Electricity had to be made much more expensive for RE scam to pay-off for investors. And to do that within the claims of the Climate Scam, both RE had to plausible as US power generation source for the windfall investment pay-off, and the global temp record had to be altered to eliminate that inconvenient and annoying GMST Pause (Hiatus) since 2000 as any concern otherwise the world was simply chasing an imaginary warming (or one that had stopped contrary to models).

    Then of course as NAS President Marcia McNutt found out, the PNAS’s own editorial rules could not stop publication of the 2017 rebuttal from NAS fellows in the PNAS against Jacobson’s junk paper claims. Which of course ignited Jacobson’s lawsuit hoping with McNutt at NAS President she and the internal pressure she could exert would force a retraction in any settlement. The defendants balked at retraction and the plantiffs then blinked as their bluff was called. Of course all of Jacobson’s legal fees for that lawsuit were being funded by outside parties, parties that needed the RE scam to be supported for much deeper financial considerations.

    Bottom line: These multi-Million dollar lawsuits are just chump change for the deep pocketed billionaires and are viewed as part of the business expense of the Trillion dollar shakedown of the American public for the renewable energy scam.

    • It’s alarming to me that just when I think I’ve found the right level of cynicism regarding scientific claims I discover I’ve woefully underestimated just how bad things truly are.

      From here on out my response to all scientific claims will be “I don’t believe a word you’re saying. Take your study and put it where the sun doesn’t shine”.

      • “From here on out my response to all scientific claims will be “I don’t believe a word you’re saying.”

        That’s the attitude to take.

        I would add “prove it”, at the end.

        This attitude is especially necessary when dealing with climate science, where wild specilation is rampant.

    • Joel,
      That is exactly my views.
      I had critiqued theJacopson “paper”, emailed back and forth with him, and when I read he would be presenting it in Paris, I just not believe it, because it was pure junk.
      The assembled RE idiots and the Media ate it up.
      You are right about the Obama plot.
      He is a lot smarter than the rest of the lot.
      Under Biden, his influence will be predominant.
      First, he will undo all that Trump did, and go on from there to the left.
      Time to head for the hills.
      Good thing I have a strong stomach.

  11. The claim that bug = error is wrong, as a matter of ordinary usage.

    A classic bug would be if the model does not reproduce the equations it attempts to be modelling. For instance, user entered data is not correctly introduced into the calculations. There are rounding errors which propagate. It mixes metric and imperial measurements and so overstates or understates results.

    These are bugs, that is, defects in programming. They have nothing to do with whether the model itself is accurate or sensible. They are to do with whether it has been competently coded.

    It can be competently coded, which is what bug free means, and still have errors. The underlying formulae can be wrong in the sense that they are not sensible accounts of the subject.

    As an example, I do a model which predicts incidence of diabetes based on high glycemic index carbohydrate intake. My model proposes a linear function.

    There’s a bug in it if it does not in fact implement a linear function, but at some levels of intake shows the diabetes prediction moving around randomly.

    There’s an error in it if the relationship is not linear but perhaps a log function.

    Writing as someone who has just finished coding a very simple mode… and found both bugs and errors!

    The IPCC models may be bug free. That does not mean they don’t have errors in them.

  12. Rick C PE
    July 11, 2020 at 4:48 pm
    Jacobson’s paper said it is possible to power the US on just renewables.

    Now why would Jacobson come out with that rubbish?
    When!
    Wind turbines do not produce the legally required 50/60Hz energy. They are useless.
    PV solar does not have the capacity/oomph to power the grid. They are not scalable.

  13. Undoubtedly Stanford has profited much more than 600 thousand as a direct result of Jacobsen’s creativity. I’m sure they will find some kind of creative way to compensate him–or even just pay it for him. They don’t want to set a precedent. Stanford doesn’t want to discourage the producers of these highly profitable fabrications.

    Meteorologists Slyly Refuse to Discuss Storm Theory
    https://anchor.fm/james-mcginn/episodes/Meteorologists-Slyly-Refuse-to-Discuss-Storm-Theory-edslkh

    James McGinn / Genius
    President of Solving Tornadoes

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