The Nifong Disbarment

Mike Nifong, the prosecutor of the Duke lacrosse scandal, is in the news for being disbarred for his handling of the prosecution of the Duke lacrosse team. This illustrates the difference in how concealment of material information is treated in most walks of life and the failure of the IPCC to see any moral dilemma in its role in actively concealing the adverse post-1960 results of the Briffa et al reconstruction. The IPCC authors’ response to criticism of the deletion was only that it would be “inappropriate” to show the adverse post-1960 results. Surely it’s “inappropriate” not to show them.

There’s another amusing connection. Tom Crowley, a key member of the Hockey Team, who acted as Michael Mann’s stunt double at the scheduled House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last summer (Mann sending a lawyer’s letter to the great amusement of the Republicans), prominently supported the now disbarred prosecutor. Here are a couple of amusing blog articles on Crowley here and here . Like the IPCC, Crowley seemed to see no problem with misconduct if it’s in a “good cause”.

Update – as noted by a poster below, Crowley retracted his comments shortly after making them, stating:

On Nov. 13, The Herald-Sun published an “Other Voices” piece by me concerning the Duke lacrosse case. I have subsequently been informed of errors in that letter. In particular my blanket statement about behavior of the lacrosse team was neither fair in general nor applicable to the particular case now in dispute. I apologize for this and any other errors.

The response to my letter has made me more aware of the intense emotions that are associated with this case. These tensions can only be bad for campus-community relations, and I strongly support any efforts to reduce them. Finally, I sincerely hope that lessons learned from the lacrosse case will be applied to future cases in order to lift the standards of justice for all in Durham County.

Usually, it’s prudent to try to get your facts right before making allegations.

Update: Just to be clear, I’ve met Crowley; we sat beside each other at the first House hearings and then I went out for beer afterwards with him and Myron Ebell and others – my mother would have approved of the diplomacy involved in getting this group together – and had a nice chat with him.

Our emails back and forth have been cheerful although ridiculously unproductive. He likes basketball which increases his standing immeasurably in my books. I mentioned a long time ago that I thought his text Crowley and North was very interesting and better than Bradley’s book.

He’s written some non-hockey stick articles which are pretty interesting. I’ve been meaning to post up some of his comments on lapse rate. However, he wrote an article in EOS in 2005 slagging me in which, like his letter on the lacrosse team, one fact after another was wrong. Nanne Weber of KNMI started off with a very unfavorable impression of me due to this article. I submitted a reply to EOS which they took 6 months to review and then rejected as being no longer topical, although the reviewer agreed that I had legitimate grievances with the Crowley article. I asked for a retraction and got nowhere.

Perhaps, in the spirit of reconciliation of Crowley’s retraction here, he might turn his mind to a similar retraction of his EOS article.


  1. Dave B
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 4:33 PM | Permalink

    Steve m, I think the guy’s name is mike nifong, not nihong.

  2. L Nettles
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

    gobsmacked, by the connection between these two stories. Now if K C Johnson would spend a little time on the Hockey Team.

  3. Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 4:59 PM | Permalink

    Why are people continually gobsmacked by these revelations. There are many more to come and some of you will be punch drunk by then at this rate!!!!

  4. Reid
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 5:36 PM | Permalink

    Crowley uses the same intellectual rigor in legal analysis and climate science.

    Seems like Crowley’s brain has been infected with the post-modern virus. Climate science is a social construct.

  5. Murray Duffin
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 5:37 PM | Permalink

    Charter member of the Hockey Team, and behaving in the best tradition thereof. Murray

  6. John Nicklin
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 5:50 PM | Permalink

    Under what logic is it inappropriate to show adverse results. I would imaging that it would only strengthen a study to do so and explain why or how the adverse data shows up. Then again if it shoots a hole in your boat, I can see why you wouldn’t want to use it. But, any grad student who hide results like that would not graduate.

  7. Mark T.
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 8:22 PM | Permalink

    Team logic.


  8. Henry
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 8:23 PM | Permalink

    Crowley appears to have retracted his November 13/14 op-ed piece on or about December 1.

  9. Jonathan Schafer
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 9:57 PM | Permalink


    Crowley’s comments, as well as the Duke ’88’ may simply be an attempt at providing “cover” against potential lawsuits. The whole episode is disheartening, but certainly not surprising whatsoever.

  10. aurbo
    Posted Jun 18, 2007 at 10:43 PM | Permalink

    So Crowley had subsequently apologized. That’s good. However:

    “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it”
    …Omar Khayyam

    Now, if Crowley were to disavow the hockey-stick, that would be a real sign of contrition

  11. John A
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 2:37 AM | Permalink

    Here’s as far as I could get of what Tom Crowley wrote (without spending money to get the full 541 words):

    Herald-Sun, The (Durham, NC) – November 12, 2006

    Don’t be too quick to toss lacrosse case

    I am surprised at the number of letter writers to your paper who, although they have no legal qualifications, seem to assume they have sufficient knowledge about the Duke lacrosse case to conclude that the case should be thrown out before it even goes to trial. I don’t know what happened that night with respect to those students and that woman, but I do know the following items about the case that would lead one to hesitate before throwing out the case. The Duke lacrosse players…

  12. James Erlandson
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 5:36 AM | Permalink

    Re 11: John A
    The full text is available here for free. Scroll down to the November 16, 2006 posting — about 1/3 down. The retraction is further down the page, posted on December 1, 2006.

  13. Michael Jankowski
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 7:17 AM | Permalink

    While ignoring the mountain of evidence that does exist, Crowley seemed particularly excised about evidence that does not. “Why,” he asked Herald-Sun readers, “are photographs available before and after the alleged event, but not during it?”

    Crowley has the scientific expertise: I do not. But it’s my understanding that laws of space, time, and motion make it difficult to photograph an “alleged event.” If an “event” didn’t occur, it’s hard to see how anyone could photograph it.

  14. Duke Parent
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 7:19 AM | Permalink

    To find out more about the Duke Group of 88 professors, visit:

  15. Duke Parent
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 7:23 AM | Permalink

    Sorry, the link got lost the first time around. I hope this works better. To read more about Duke Group of 88 professors, visit:

    Duke Group of 88+

  16. GMF
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 10:32 AM | Permalink

    “Usually, it’s prudent to try to get your facts right before making allegations.” (Steve M)

    Usually, but not in the creative fields like law enforcement or climate science. Why limit yourself with inconvenient facts??

    In legal circles they refer to the concept of procedural fairness – I think Mike Nifong was absent from class that day.

    And I’m not surprised by the link between Crowley and Nifong – why wouldn’t people who support the selective (and creative) use of “facts” to further their agendas stick together?

  17. Rightwing Judo
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    You Duke parents need to get on the ball and urge you kids to stop signing up for ANY
    class offered by the gang of 88.

    or even funnier, sign up in DROVES and then drop the class within the drop period.

  18. per
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 4:39 PM | Permalink

    more crowley coverage at durham in wonderland

  19. observer
    Posted Jun 19, 2007 at 7:24 PM | Permalink

    I’m a lawyer and have posted a little back and forth with Steve once before on this topic before in blog reply comments.

    The criminal disclosure analog is an interesting one. The prosecutor has a duty to proactively disclose pertinent information to the defense.

    An even better example, with more glaring differences with the IPCC, et al., are the civil discovery rules. Even in simple slip and fall cases, every single document and piece of information requested that is relevant or even may just “lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” must be produced. This is Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 26 if you’re interested in googling it.

    For technical experts even in these simple civil cases, this includes every scrap of data used in its original file format, all code used to process it and all information reviewed by the expert. Moreover, long multi-day depositions can be taken of the expert going through step-by-step every single step he took and decision he made.

    Not only are opposing experts’ methods rendered entirely replicable immediately, but often, multiple iterations of replications with variations are performed by both parties. And these occur many times even in very small cases.

    For the billion+ dollar trade secret, antitrust and securities cases I’ve worked on, there are countless different experts, and the analysis by other experts themselves of literally terrabytes of data can run way up over $10 million. Moreover, depositions of a single expert can go on for over a week.

    The global warming issue could potentially be a $100+ trillion question over the next several decades. That even less open discovery is taking place for it than a $50,000 slip and fall case is absolutely beyond shocking.

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