Miersch/Maxeiner v. Bundesministerium fór Umwelt (Halle Administrative Court, 2015)
Side A: Maxeiner (Individual)
Side B: Federal Ministry for Environment (Government)
Challenge to Ministry's public characterization of journalists as "climate change skeptics"
The Administrative Court of Halle, Germany ruled in late November 2015 on a dispute between two journalists and the German Ministry of Environment. Specifically, the court determined that laws governing privacy rights and the Ministry's conduct did not prevent the Ministry from publishing a pamphlet in 2013 that referred to the journalists by name and identified them as "climate-change skeptics." The journalists had written an article in February 2012 for the Germany news outlet Die Welt that raised questions about the prevailing theory of climate change—based on interviews with academics who doubted the prevailing theory of greenhouse gas-based radiative forcing. The dispute arose when the journalists challenged use of their names in the pamphlet. The court recognized the validity of the journalists' rights to privacy generally, but concluded that in this case the Ministry's action was warranted. The court also noted that the Ministry is not restricted to neutral presentations of information; to the contrary, the Ministry is responsible to "inform and educate the public about environmental issues," which in this instance included making appropriately objective characterizations of arguments and actors in a scientific debate.