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Affidavits in Michael Mann Libel Suit Reveal Astonishing Facts About Tim Ball Associate John O'Sullivan

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Originally published on DeSmogBlog, co-authored by Richard Littlemore.

Affidavits filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court libel litigation brought by climate scientist Michael Mann against climate science denier Timothy Ball reveal that Ball's collaborator and self-styled "legal advisor" has misrepresented his credentials and endured some significant legal embarrassments of his own. 

The affidavits also reveal that Tim Ball was "aware of the charges against John O'Sullivan almost from the start" and has tried to distance himself from his erstwhile advisor and writing partner.

The affidavits [12] come from research of science and medical writer Andrew Skolnick, who documents O'Sullivan's misrepresentations, backtracking and questionable behavior.

Tim Ball and John O'Sullivan had a close working relationship, even before Mann sued Ball for libel in March 2011. For example, they co-authored the climate science denial book Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, which was published in 2010.

Skolnick's evidence shows that O'Sullivan made a series of false claims, including:

  • that he was an attorney with more than a decade of successful litigation in New York State and Federal courts;
  • that he was employed by a major Victoria, B.C. (Canada) law firm that is representing Ball in the libel action;
  • that he is a widely published writer, with credits in Forbes and the National Review;
  • that he had received his law degree from the University College, Cork, Ireland and/or from the University of Surrey (O'Sullivan's actual legal accreditation, apparently obtained after the Mann-Ball action commenced, comes from an online degree mill, Hill University, which promises delivery in two weeks);
  • that he is a member of the American Bar Association.

One affidavit includes an online comment in which O'Sullivan says, "For your information, I am a retired academic and I have litigated personally or assisted others in pro se litigation at every level of court there is in New York State as well as Federal level, for over a decade and never lost." 

Although O'Sullivan admits in this particular comment that he is not, in fact, licensed to practice law, in the U.S. or the U.K., he adds, "I'm just some Brit with a brain who can go live with his American wife in her country and kick ass big time around a courtroom."

Certainly, O'Sullivan was successful in winning an acquittal when he was personally charged in England as a high school teacher accused of sending lewd text messages and assaulting a 16-year-old female. Given the acquittal, it would not generally be appropriate to bring up this sordid and unproven bit of history, except that O'Sullivan himself went on to write an "erotic" "novel" with a startlingly similar storyline: Vanilla Girl: a Fact-Based Crime Story of a Teacher's Struggle to Control His Erotic Obsession with a Schoolgirl.

Although eager to present himself as a science researcher of accomplishment -- certainly Tim Ball's equal -- Skolnick's research found that O'Sullivan is highly prone to error, whether intentional or not.

For example, O'Sullivan provided bogus contact information when registering as an 'associate' with the New York County Lawyers' Association, an organization that apparently does not vet its members' qualifications (and does not, in any case, bestow the right to practic law). While O'Sullivan claimed to be with a firm named "Principia Scientific International," he provided the address of a construction company called Second Nature Construction; the phone number and fax number didn't belong to O'Sullivan or anyone connected to "Principia," either.

Principia certainly exists in some form. According to its website, O'Sullivan is its CEO, and Tim Ball is Chairman. Other members include climate deniers Paul DriessenPaul Reiter and more. Principia notes that it operates as a "private association rather than a charitable foundation. This is because PSI chooses to operate with the relative freedom of any start up association that has yet to determine whether it may fulfil its long term purpose as either a business with the private profit motive or a charity."
 

This information emerged, and became relevant to this most recent libel action against Tim Ball, in part because Ball himself, in his Response to Civil Claim, stated that his communications with O'Sullivan were subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Mann then filed a reply, pointing out the facts documented in Skolnick's affidavits. As Mann's lawsuit proceeds, the court will inevitably rule on Ball's claim for "solicitor-client" privilege.

In the meantime, Ball has not submitted any affidavit from O'Sullivan attesting to his qualifications as Ball's legal advisor. If he did, O'Sullivan would be subject to cross-examination by Michael Mann's lawyer.

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