Legal issues

I would say that making predictions about future events is the last thing an unqualified person like me should do but now that Heartland have got their man, in this post I'm making an exception and will use my crystal ball.

When the Heartland Institutes documents hit the Internet Heartland immediately went into a very heavy handed, legally threatening mode. They issued a statement saying that they intended to pursue all possible actionable civil remedies to the fullest extent of the law, and called on all activists, bloggers, and other journalists to immediately remove all of these documents and any quotations taken from them, from their blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions.

In a witty and ironic parody the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, issued an almost word for word identical statement but with the 'Climategate' emails as the subject and asked that;
 "the Heartland Institute, all activists, bloggers, and other journalists to immediately remove all of these documents and any quotations taken from them, from their blogs, Web sites, and publications, and to publish retractions". 
Though it is sobering to think that climate researchers could require the services of a defence fund.

But now Heartland have a target to aim all the legal backed ire at in the form of whistle blower Peter Gleick. I have already seen many posts on blogs from 'Skeptics' calling for the man to be sued. So here is my prediction for the future;
I predict that legally the Heartland Institute will do nothing that could end up with Peter Gleick in a public courtroom. They wont dare.
I feel a psychic certainty that this will be the case. But it is a prediction that I hope I am really, really wrong about. Any defence that Gleick makes will rely heavily on motive and that in turn will bring more public scrutiny upon the documents and who their Mr Anonymous might be. The documents themselves have already revealed that they have set aside;
"An estimated $36,000 to pay lawyers for litigation over whether Heartland can be forced to handover records of conversations with a donor of some five years ago."
A public court case could be very damaging for Heartland if public sympathy turned to favour a scientist who felt the need to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland. Heartland's other donors, now publicly unmasked within these documents, will not like further media attention on their actions and motives.
As example of similar previous situations, James Hansen has now been arrested three times in protests but has yet to see the inside of a courtroom. On the matter of his first arrest in 2009, the 71 year old has stated in his book, Storms of my Grandchildren, in a published interview with Bill McKibben;
"Still no trial date has been set. According to the law, I could get as much as one year in prison. I am beginning to think that the authorities do not want a trial."
In the Tim DeChristopher trail the activist was found guilty of fraud after bidding on oil-and-gas drilling leases, and winning to keep them out of the hands of Oil and Gas companies. Before the arrest he was hardly known. But when on trail hundreds of activists marched to the federal courthouse in his support, including film stars and other celebrities.

This is the sort of media attention that I can predict with certainty that Heartland will want to avoid, and a possibility they might get by pursuing Gleick.


  1. I agree with your assessment. I think Heartland has gotten as much PR value out of this as it's going to get having rallied the masses of climate science deniers.

    I find it HI's public reaction curious, however. Threatening, pompous, allusions to "warmist" conspiracies do not add up to attracting or maintaining high-level donors, such as Microsoft, but seem directed to rank-and-file "Joe Citizen." If I were Microsoft I'd distance myself from Heartland as fast as possible reading Bast's statements. I find it hard to believe that HI's Board of Directors would approve of that approach.

    Maybe Bast has so much power over that the Board is unwilling to say much. I wouldn't be surprised if Heartland is having some potentially serious internal troubles.

    1. Agreed. If it wasn't the case before this incident will cause all those within and connected to Heartland to re-evaluate. Disagreements are likely.

      I also notice from the documents that it mentions some ex-employees. Suggesting some were ineffective and not up to the job. For example;
      Latonya Harris,let go due to chronic truancy.

      Such people may be inclined to come forward or at lest talk to the press. I don't think we have heard the last of this yet.

  2. Hansen's arrests are in the criminal sphere which relieves him of the burden of proof. Gleick is IMHO in a much more precarious position, a civil suit would (I think ) be standard of proof at the balance of probabilities. I dont agree with you for another reason though which I don't want to enlarge on right now ;-) sorry don't wanna tempt fate. But it's the judgement of Gleick's peers I'm watching out for.

  3. I still think that the very nature of Heartland will work in Gleick's favor. This is a front organisation that tries to keep in's funders anonymous and it's funding covert. They can take the moral high ground if things stay as they are but may lose it or further embarrass it's funders if further media attention is brought to bear through legal actions.