When we last visited Lott’s lawsuit against Levitt, Lott was asking the judge to reconsider the dismissal of his case against Freakonomics.

Well, the judge denied this, so now Lott wants to amend his complaint. The new complaint adds is now about another sentence in Freakonomics as well:

Then there was the troubling allegation that Lott actually invented
some of the survey data that supports his more-guns/less-crime theory.
Regardless of whether the data were faked, Lott’s admittedly
intriguing hypothesis doesn’t seem to be true. When other scholars
have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry
laws simply don’t bring down crime.

Lott’s amended complaint:

(12) The vignette and story relating to Plaintiff which is quoted
above includes, but is not limited to, the following statements and
innuendo about him which are untrue and are defamatory:
a. Plaintiff “invented some of the survey data that supports his more-guns/less-crime theory”
b. Plaintiff’s survey “data were faked.”
c. “When other scholars have tried to replicate [Plaintiff’s] results, they found
that right-to-carry laws simply don’t bring down crime”

In his first version of the complaint, Lott did not mention the stuff about his mysterious survey. Perhaps because Levitt didn’t say that Lott fabricated the survey but rather that others have alleged this, which is true. And far from it being untrue that Lott faked his data, it almost certain that Lott did fabricate his survey.

(15) The statements and innuendo in Freakonomics that Plaintiff
“invented” data supporting his books and papers, that he “faked” such
data, and that his results could not be “replicated” (a) constitute an
attack on his integrity and honesty in his profession as economist,
scholar and researcher, and (b) impute to him a lack of ability that
prejudices him in his profession. Particularly (but not exclusively)
an Academic reading or hearing statements and innuendo that an
economist, scholar and researcher “invented” data supporting his books
and papers, that he “faked” data, and that his results could not be
“replicated” would immediately conclude, to the prejudice of the
economist, scholar and researcher, that he lacks integrity, honesty
and ability in his profession. Few, if any, other assertions would be
as damaging to the reputation of an economist, scholar and researcher.

I don’t know much about law, but surely truth is a defence here.

Lott then claims:

(17) Examples of Levitt’s hostility to Plaintiff abound. For example, and not by way of limitation: …
g. Levitt said publicly that an academic presentation Plaintiff was scheduled to
make would be filled with outrageous lies, and Levitt offered publicly to pay
colleagues if they would humiliate Plaintiff for Levitt.

You should probably take this claim with a large boulder of salt. Lott has made similar wild paranoid claims before. For example, he accused Phil Cook and Dan Nagin of conspiring to “deal with” him, and here he seems to think that the Federalist Society is in league with John Donohue.

Hat tip: Craig Newmark.

Update: David Glenn reports:

According to the motion, new facts have come to Mr. Lott’s attention since last year that significantly alter the character of his complaint. For one thing, he says, new information has come out about what he calls Mr. Levitt’s malice toward him. The motion alleges that Mr. Levitt has publicly referred to Mr. Lott as “the anti-Christ” and that Mr. Levitt “offered publicly to pay colleagues if they would humiliate” Mr. Lott. (Mr. Levitt did not immediately reply to a request for comment today.)

The motion also says that Mr. Lott has suffered reputational damage in his professional community because of Freakonomics. Mr. Lott “has encountered persons in job interviews and at academic seminars,” the motion reads, “who indicated that they had read the statements and innuendo, who indicated that they believed the statements and innuendo were true.” This reputational damage allows Mr. Lott to add a claim of “libel per quod” to his complaint.


  1. #1 Mary Rosh
    August 1, 2007

    Stop picking on John Lott. He’s a great man, a great professor, and has eyebrows to die for.

  2. #2 _Arthur
    August 1, 2007

    …and the very best sock puppets !!

  3. #3 Not Marion Delgado
    August 1, 2007

    Other than Marion Delgado, I think Mary Rosh is the soundest commenter in the blogosphere. But why is commenting supposed to be easier using sockpuppets? I can barely hit the keys.

  4. #4 Sortition
    August 1, 2007

    > mysterious survey

    Is this the survey that just by complete chance coincidence had an NRA board member included in the random sample?

  5. #5 Brian Schmidt
    August 1, 2007

    Claims 12a and 12b are pure garbage.

    Re Claim 12c, Lott will allege that a single successful replication will prove Levitt’s statement false, while Levitt will say if two or more scholars were unable to replicate, then the statement is true. I’d guess a judge would lean toward Levitt, or at least find for Levitt if a significant percentage of replication attempts were unsuccessful.

  6. #6 Steve Sailer
    August 1, 2007

    According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Levitt has made “a doozy of a concession” to Lott over Levitt’s defamatory email. It appears that Lott has won a big moral victory over Levitt.


  7. #7 Richard
    August 1, 2007

    I am confused. It is not clear how you can infer the timing and motivation of the different filings from what you have shown here. As one example, how do you know that they weren’t planning on filing the amended complaint anyway? Newmark’s blog says that the amended complaint was filed on Monday. What I don’t see is the date for the Judge’s denial. Could you point to a news story or something that shows when this denial was given? I have look extensively on the web and I can’t find anything.

  8. #8 Tim Lambert
    August 1, 2007

    Richard, entry 62 on Pacer says:

    >Docket Text: MINUTE entry before Judge Ruben Castillo : Plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration of dismissal of count I is denied for the reasons stated in open court. Response due 8/14/2007 to plaintiff’s motion for leave to file an amended complaint. Reply due 8/21/2007. Status hearing set for 8/23/2007 at 9:45a.m.Mailed notice (slb, )

  9. #9 Richard
    August 2, 2007

    Thanks, but I found that Adler had linked to a story at the Chronicle. As I understand the timing of things now, this amendment to the complaint was filed on Monday. They judge heard things on Tuesday where he rejected this other motion. So again, how can you claim: “Well, the judge denied this, so now Lott wants to amend his complaint.” It seems that the laawyers filed their amendment before the judge ruled. Kind of goes against your story line.

  10. #10 Steve Sailers
    August 2, 2007

    I hadn’t been paying much attention to economist John R. Lott’s defamation lawsuit against Freakonomist Steven D. Levitt: I don’t like lawsuits. But now I’ve finally read the two 2005 emails at the heart of one count of Lott’s suit. I’m sure I don’t understand all the details of the situation, but they seem pretty eye-opening.

    They were between an economist named John McCall and Levitt, and they touch upon the October 2001 issue of the U. of Chicago’s Journal of Law & Economics, which contained a sizable number of articles based on papers given at a conference Lott set up at AEI in 1999 on gun control and crime. (Levitt and Lott, of course, famously disagree about the causes of changes in the crime rate.)

    From: John McCall
    Subject: Freakonomics note yesterday to you
    To: steve levitt

    Hi Steve,

    I went to the website you recommended — have not gone after the round table proceedings yet — I also found the following citations — have not read any of them yet, but it appears they all replicate Lott’s research. The Journal of Law and Economics is not chopped liver.

    Have you read through any of these?



    John McCall PhD

    Levitt replied:

    From: slevitt@[deleted for anti-spam purposes]
    Date: Wed May 25, 2005 9:18:28 PM US/Central
    To: John McCall
    Subject: Re: Freakonomics note yesterday to you


    It was not a peer refereed edition of the Journal. For $15,000 he was able to buy an issue and put in only work that supported him. My best friend was the editor and was outraged the press let Lott do this.


    The Chronicle of Higher Education now writes:

    “Mr. Levitt’s letter of clarification, which was included in Friday’s filing, offers a doozy of a concession. In his 2005 message, Mr. Levitt told Mr. McCall that “it was not a peer-refereed edition of the Journal.” But in his letter of clarification, Mr. Levitt writes: “I acknowledge that the articles that were published in the conference issue were reviewed by referees engaged by the editors of the JLE. In fact, I was one of the peer referees.”

    “Mr. Levitt’s letter also concedes that he had been invited to present a paper at the 1999 conference. (He did not do so.) That admission undermines his e-mail message’s statement that Mr. Lott had “put in only work that supported him.”

    “In his letter of clarification to Mr. McCall, Mr. Levitt said, “At the time of my May 2005 e-mails to you, I knew that scholars with varying opinions had been invited to participate in the 1999 conference and had been informed that their papers would be considered for publication in what became the conference issue.”

  11. #11 Tim Lambert
    August 2, 2007

    Wow Steve, so Levitt wrote a careless and misleading email. You sure seem to want to make a mountain out of a molehill.

  12. #12 Ian Gould
    August 2, 2007

    “When other scholars have tried to replicate [Plaintiff’s] results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don’t bring down crime” ”

    Presumably from now on whenever a scientist gets a result which differs from the published results of a colleague they can expect to be sued.

  13. #13 Marion Delgado
    August 2, 2007

    Steve Sailers, since we’ve establshed David Glenna at the Chronicle of Higher Education as a source you’ll accept, you’ll have no problem, I hope, admitting the following:

    1. Lott had criticized Levitt over the issues at hand for years.1 So Lott was not only a public figure in and of himself, but also a public figure for the controversy at hand. Hence, Times v. Sullivan applies. That is to say, there has to be proof of wilfull disregard of known facts. Mistaken defamation of a public figure is not – NOT actionable. By the way, defamation can be TRUE (as this is), which also makes it not actionable.
    2. It was Lott’s mentor McCall who made the fuss in his email that drew Levitt’s response.2
    3. Levitt’s response in email was directly to McCall’s question, and his characterization of the “peer-reviewed journal” status of the supporting (not replicating) studies is not only not reckless disregard of the truth, but was backed up by one of the participants – which is why a defamation suit by a public figure is a SLAPP in this case.3
    4. That special supplemental edition, indeed paid for by Lott, was a farce. There was an understanding beforehand that papers presented at Lott’s American Enterprise Institute-created-and-funded seminar would all be accepted, regardless of quality, as long as they supported Lott, and if not, not3. The Lott-supporting wingnuts think that’s peer review, but not real researchers, including one cited by the COHE who attended the presentations.4
    5. The only paper that did not support Lott is the only paper that did not get in.5 I hope you’re not comfortable with that odd coincidence, but I’m betting you ARE, sadly.

    And that’s all just from one article. Since then, judges have dismissed the entire case, and as part of the SLAPP, Lott/Rosh is simply asking his lawyers what barratry he can still throw at Levitt. “Amend the complaint,” they’ve replied. My sympathy for Levitt is quite limited. He’s almost as big a right-wing market fundamentalist as Lott and the AEI are, and apparently he participated in one of Lott’s dog-and-pony shows in the past. Presumably it wasn’t the total farce this one was, or else Levitt didn’t care until his own ox was gored – although, familiarity with what a farce it would be is a likely reason he didn’t participate – see the presumption of publication (if you support Lott) above, admitted to by many participants. But facts are facts – Lott not only can’t prove he ever did any research at all, he has a proven history of academic and disputational fraud, and is the one who really defames others, as Tim Lambert has demonstrated repeatedly in this blog — their forebearance (in fairness, they don’t have AEI’s deep pockets) has emboldened him, in my opinion. If Lott were sued every time he libeled someone from now on, he’d have no time to file his SLAPPs. By the way, this is not what we mean by peer-review. The deck was stacked by Lott and AEI and they could CONFIDENTLY guarantee supportive papers would be published in the paid-for special edition. In other words, even if Levitt had said, oh, this is garbage, it wouldn’t matter – it would still go in.
    1 Federal Judge Allows Defamation Lawsuit Against Best-Selling Economist to Proceed David Glenn COHE:

    For several years, Mr. Lott has aggressively criticized Mr. Levitt’s controversial theory that America’s sharp drop in crime during the 1990s was partly a byproduct of the legalization of abortion, in 1973. And Mr. Levitt has returned the favor by scrutinizing Mr. Lott’s statistical models of gun ownership and crime

    2 Glenn:

    John J. McCall, a retired economist who was once a mentor of Mr. Lott’s at the University of California at Los Angeles, wrote to Mr. Levitt to complain. What about all of the scholarly papers that support Mr. Lott’s theories, Mr. McCall asked, especially those that appeared in a 2001 issue of The Journal of Law and Economics? That journal, Mr. McCall wrote, “is not chopped liver.”

    3 Glenn:

    The journal sent the guns-and-crime conference papers out for peer review, but — according to several accounts — with the understanding that all or nearly all would be approved for publication. By contrast, the journal accepts fewer than 10 percent of the papers that are submitted for publication in its normal issues.

    4 Glenn:

    A participant in the conference told The Chronicle last year that Mr. Levitt’s characterization of the issue as not peer-refereed was an exaggeration but not an outrageous untruth.

    5 Glenn:

    As the case moves forward, attention is likely to focus on the single paper presented at the 1999 conference that did not ultimately make it into the symposium issue.
    That paper, whose lead author was Glenn W. Harrison, now a professor of economics at the University of Central Florida, was sharply critical of Mr. Lott’s statistical methods, and concluded that it was impossible to use his data set to draw lessons about whether concealed-carry laws reduce crime.

  14. #14 David Glenn
    August 2, 2007

    I should weigh in here and point out that I made a substantial error in that article, which was repeated in a couple of other items I wrote for the Chronicle.

    The John McCall who was involved in the 2005 e-mail exchange with Levitt is not John J. McCall, who taught at UCLA when Lott earned his Ph.D. there.

    Apologies to John Lott and to both Professors McCall for the error.

  15. #15 agricola
    August 2, 2007

    As an aside, and if the email does end up being found to be defamatory, how much can Lott expect to get for a private email between one person and another (assuming it wasnt Levitt who exposed it to the public)?

    I would hope it would be pennies.

  16. #16 Steve Sailer
    August 2, 2007

    The proposed settlement won’t give Lott any money, but Levitt would have to publish the letter of clarification described above.

  17. #17 Steve Sailer
    August 2, 2007

    I shall link to Mario Delgado’s informative comment.

    Tim Lambert writes:

    “Wow Steve, so Levitt wrote a careless and misleading email. You sure seem to want to make a mountain out of a molehill.”

    As opposed to Tim’s relentless devotion to the really, really huge issues confronting the human race, such as the identity of Mary Rosh!

    Look, Levitt, like Andrei Shleifer, is a superstar economist, so his behavior matters, but it also is more risky to challenge the big boys’ behavior. As we can see, Levitt appears to be quite an academic infighter.

    Lott, in contrast, is not a superstar. When you’re in high school, it’s fun to side with the cool, popular kid in his dispute with the uncool, unpopular kid, but it’s not high school anymore.

  18. #18 theo
    August 2, 2007

    When you’re in high school, it’s fun to side with the cool, popular kid in his dispute with the uncool, unpopular kid

    Ah, but we have to consider why he’s so so unpopular. With Lott, it’s the creepy way he sits in the corner, talking to himself in different voices.

  19. #19 theo
    August 2, 2007

    And Sailer’s wrong as usual. Lott didn’t win a moral victory. He won a legalistic concession.

    For all practical purposes, and as an academic would use the terms, completely BS peer review = no peer review. In fact, what occurred was worse than no peer review, since it sounds like they actively excluded critics.

    Levitt’s only mistake was in not calling it “anti-peer review”. Or “review by the political commissar”.

  20. #20 theo
    August 2, 2007

    How predictable is it that the Journal of Law and Economics would put a price on its editorial integrity?

    And yet, who would have thought it would be so low?

    “We’ve already established what you are, ma’am. Now we’re just haggling over the price…”

  21. #21 Sock Puppet
    August 2, 2007

    1. Let’s get to the core of the issue. Whether Lott’s finding is true or not, was it justifiable for Levitt to use his book and emails to portray the research as a scientific scam?

    The answer is simply no. Lott has at least as much support for his thesis as Levitt does for the abortion-crime link, if not more. The fact that most economist believe Levitt was wrong does not give them the right to claim Levitt is knowingly LYING. Yet this is the impression he gave about Lott.


    Helland and Tabarrok are two very well respected
    economists in this field. Their 2004 paper in Advances in Economic Analysis and Policy to a large extent supports Lotts finding. The National Academies Committee on Law and Justice report was inconclusive, noting methodological problems too large to make claims with certainly. They took Lott very seriously, and arguing that your (and your opponents) methodology is insufficient to give a definitive answer is hardly the same as calling them frauds.

    Levitt simply has no foundation for claiming Lott is not scientific. Lott has science on his side in this issue as Levitt does in most of the papers he has written. I respect those who don’t consider any of them scientists, but letting Levitt with all his star-aura get away with misrepresenting Lott is not serious.


    “By contrast, the journal accepts fewer than 10 percent of the papers that are submitted for publication in its normal issues.”

    So??? This is common practice. People discount AER papers and preceding the same way, it does not mean it’s not economics. The argument that ‘there was an understanding’ the conference papers would be published is simply NOT the same as Lott buying the journal.

    What they did with the conference is hardly unusual. You have plenty of situations where a paper is implicitly accepted. But this includes two quality controls, one before asking them to submit it, and one when the referee gets to refuse the paper.

    The referee process is very often open to critism; this does not make Law and Economics non-refereed. That claim is simply false. It is also silly to ignore the papers there without actually refuting them (maybe he can, but he doesn’t).

    Look, there is a pattern in the data, that to some extent support his case. Therefore different people will find the same result. But it is not a super strong relation, so some controls will make the relation go away. The people that supported Lotts finding were not cheating either, even if you think they were wrong. I repeat, there is a world of difference between not accepting an estimate and claiming it is knowingly manufactured.

    By the way, let’s see if the fantastically scientific referee processes will allow Levitt and Fryer get their god-awful baby-paper into AER. Levitt already has at least two papers where the results are clearly wrong. Except the abortion papers the results of his 2004 gap-paper with Fryer in The Review of Economics and Statistics vanish when new data was added by the two.

    3. There are nine articles in the journal. One is by Lott himself. Only two fit this description, testing Lott’s work and supporting him (Plassmann and Tideman and Moody)

    Three others are really separate. Both Mustard and Marvell look at peripheral things (whether laws banning Juvenile Gun Possession reduce murders, if waiting periods affect the felonious deaths of police). Miron doesn’t test Lott’s hypothesis either, he does his own thing trying to show that “differences in the enforcement of drug prohibition are an important factor in explaining differences in violence rates across countries.”

    Two papers are in between. Benson and Brent look at the effect of private security. They think it is not important, so it doesn’t bias Lott. Parker is also in between, since his paper attacks Marvell’s, because Parker thinks Juvenile gun laws increase murders (similar to what Lott claims in general).

    Lastly Olson and Maltz “show that the liberalized carrying laws are associated with a number of effects, some that are consistent with those found by Lott and Mustard and others that are not.”

    4. Levitt used Lott’s dataset in his empirical methods class, by having students find flaws they would learn metrics.

    Today Heckman uses Levitts abortion dataset in HIS econometrics class as an implicit example of bad econometrics, giving the students the chance to replicate and destroy Levitt.

    What goes around comes around. I wonder how Levitt would feel if Heckman sent emails implying that his mistake is due to fraud?

  22. #22 Tim Lambert
    August 3, 2007

    Steve, I didn’t even mention Mary Rosh im my post. What I did mention was his likely fabrication of a survey and his habit of wild accusations that others were conspiring against him. Since you did bring up the issue of Mary Rosh, I should not that this was a deliberate attempt to deceive that went on for years. After his “Mary Rosh” sock was unmasked, Lott admitted that it was wrong for him to use it, but the very next day he was back posting using a different sock puppet. Trying to equate this to a carelessly written email by Levitt is absurd.

  23. #23 Tim Lambert
    August 3, 2007

    “Sock Puppet”: Helland and Tabarrok [does not support Lott’s findings](http://timlambert.org/2004/02/placebolaws/). The National Academies report was not “inconclusive”. They [actually concluded](http://timlambert.org/2004/12/naspanel/):

    >There is no credible evidence that “right-to-carry” laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime.

    I agree that only two articles in the journal (not counting Lott’s one) test Lott’s work and support him. Trouble for you is that Lott claims that six of them do.

    It is instructive to compare Lott’s MGLC with Ayres and Donohue’s SLR paper. Lott presents regression after regression and they all support his thesis. A&D also present lots of regressions – some support Lott, but others don’t. Do you think it plausible that Lott by some strange coincidence just ran the regressions that supported his claim? Or perhaps he did the same tests as A&D and just presented the supporting ones? Even more damning is Lott’s response to A&D. He came up with a new model that supported his claim. But A&D showed that it only supported his claim because of coding errors in the data. Rather than admit this, Lott changed the model and tried to pretend that he hadn’t changed it.

  24. #24 Eli Rabett
    August 3, 2007

    Well, some of the principals including Lott, but not Levitt have joined the discussion on this at the Volokh Conspiracy.

  25. #25 agricola
    August 3, 2007

    “What goes around comes around. I wonder how Levitt would feel if Heckman sent emails implying that his mistake is due to fraud?”

    I doubt he would run off to the lawyers.

    In any case, I note how the pro-Lott crowd here and on Volokh are focusing on this as if it is likely to have more chance of success than the original claim (which must be a new tactic from the leeches).

    The problem is, though, the behaviour of the pro-Lott crowd. Lott will no doubt lose this latest claim, and the settlement will probably stand. The pro-Lotts will then claim the settlement means their man was right all along about everything, continuing to ignore the actual state of affairs.

  26. #26 Marion Delgado
    August 3, 2007

    David Glenn:

    Gotcha, and I will amend my remarks according to that correction. Is this John McCall the professor emeritus who specialized in business ethics and labor rights issues?

    Steve Sailer:

    I stated IN MY COMMENT that I had no sympathy for Levitt per se, and one reason is that he can, sort of, defend himself since he’s a bestselling author, and frankly, an establishmentarian, not the rogue he pretends to be. But you are fundamentally dishonest here. Lott has enormous backing from the American Enterprise Instiute and the entire right-wing machine available if he needs it. And I would add, you still have zero comment on the fraudulent nature of Lott’s peer-reviewed replication. It’s not replication when people just submit papers saying, Lott’s interpretation sounds good to me, and when the only person who says, hey, Lott’s own claimed data doesn’t back up his hypothesis is the only person who doesn’t get published in the paid special edition of the economics journal. It’s not peer review when the people attending the joint academic (yale law) and propaganda arm of the GOP (AEI) sponsored conference, organized by Lott, invites mainly Lott supporters, tells them in advance their papers will almost certainly get in, and mirabile dictu the Lott supporters ALL get published in a journal that normally accepts only 1 in 10 papers. The person who didn’t get published supports concealed carry permits.

    Whether Lott is a cool kid or not, he has the principle and vice principle in his dad’s pocket.

  27. #27 z
    August 4, 2007

    “Is this the survey that just by complete chance coincidence had an NRA board member included in the random sample?”

    Not necessarily; given that he’s the only survey panel member who has appeared, it could be that ALL the random sample were NRA board members.

  28. #28 garhane
    August 7, 2007

    You know, the thing I had a hard time coming to grips with is not just that Lott “sits in the corner talking to himself” in different voices. That was a show stopper, it is true. But then it turned out that in one of the voices he was pretending to be a female who was his student, praising him as being just the greatest teacher ever. After that, I do not understand at all how any organization could publish this permanent baby. Do you suppose all the Deniers are sort of like that?

  29. #29 agricola
    August 11, 2007

    Meanwhile, Lott appears to claim that Levitt is acting as a brains-trust for terrorists everywhere:


  30. #30 Steve Sailer
    August 15, 2007

    Mario Delgado edited rather, uh, vigorously at least one excerpt from the Chronicle of Higher Education. As he quoted:

    “A participant in the conference told The Chronicle last year that Mr. Levitt’s characterization of the issue as not peer-refereed was an exaggeration but not an outrageous untruth.”

    For some reason, he left out what immediately followed:

    “Other participants, however, insisted that the issue was vigorously peer-reviewed. They said they had the impression that their work would have been rejected if they had not dealt with the reviewers’ concerns.”

    If you want to read Levitt’s memorable letter in settlement of the defamation charge over the email, you can see the original at:


  31. #31 Tim Lambert
    August 15, 2007

    Steve, the letter is included in Lott’s amended complaint, linked from my post.

    As Marion noted, 100% of the articles that favoured Lott were accepted, while the only article that disagreed with Lott was rejected.

    The bit that he left out is rather strange. If you submit something and the reviewer asks for changes, then you know it’s going to be accepted if you make the changes. What might be more interesting, is to find out if reviewers recommended rejection of any of the papers that were published.

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