Fighting for your convictions is all well and good. Getting other people to pay for it isn't.
Back in 2010, I posted on the obviously hopeless case brought by the "New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust" - a front organisation I'll come back to - against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. Rather than rehash all the details, I'll simply cut-and-paste the Court of Appeal's account of the litigation:
 The respondent, which we will call NIWA, collects and publishes temperature and other weather data from numerous weather stations in New Zealand, and has done so for many years. It maintains what it calls a National Climate Database, though the database has no official status. At issue in this proceeding were its decisions to publish three documents: the Seven-Station Temperature Series, published in 1999, the Eleven-Station Temperature Series, published in 2009, and a review of the Seven-Station Temperature Series covering the period 1909 to 2008.
 Relying on its National Climate Database and the three publications, NIWA has concluded that New Zealand is experiencing a warming climate. Its views have an impact on policy-making and public discourse.
 The appellant, which we will call “the trust,” is a charitable trust whose objectives include the promotion of accurate information about the science and policy of climate change in New Zealand. It does not accept NIWA’s conclusions about a warming climate, claiming that NIWA has misinterpreted the data.
 The trust sought judicial review of the decisions to publish the three documents. It alleged, broadly speaking, that NIWA had failed in its statutory purpose of undertaking research in accordance with the principle of excellence. It contended that for judicial review purposes Crown Research Institutes are analogous to State-Owned Enterprises, decisions of which are in principle amenable to judicial review.
 The application for review rested squarely on alleged mistakes of fact. In essence, the trust contended that NIWA had been using the wrong methodology to adjust historic temperature data to reflect changes in the locations of monitoring stations. That such adjustments are needed was not in dispute. The trust said that NIWA made the adjustments using a methodology which did not reflect received scientific opinion.
 NIWA did not accept that it had made any mistake. It claimed that its methodology was based upon what the trust says is the correct approach.
 There was a great deal of evidence in the High Court. It amounted to a debate among scientists about the correct approach to adjustments. Venning J found it unnecessary to resolve the debate. It sufficed that there was credible evidence of scientific opinion supporting NIWA’s approach.
In other words, the trust comprehensively lost in the High Court. While it did get Justice Venning to accept that in theory NIWA's actions could be reviewed by a judge, as soon as the issue became whether that organisation had followed the appropriate scientific method in carrying out its duties, he refused to engage with the issue. That is, by the way, exactly what I said would happen in my original post:
[T]rying to show that any particular research programme or exercise of judgment in the course of conducting a research programme breaches [NIWA's legal duties] will be next to impossible. It requires a court to adjudicate upon matters of scientific expertise in which courts simply are not competent. It would be like asking the scientists at NIWA to pass judgment on whether the court's decision in Re: A.M.M. and K.J.O. was an appropriate judicial use of the interpretative provision in section 6 of the NZBORA.
Of course, the trust wasn't quite finished with the matter. It appealed the High Court's decision to the Court of Appeal, with consequences that can be summed up in one paragraph:
 Before us, Mr Illingworth QC sought to challenge the High Court decision on the facts. That necessitated that we reject some of the evidence from NIWA scientists which was given in affidavits and was not the subject of cross-examination. The appeal was abandoned when we made it plain that, like Venning J, we were in no position to resolve these questions on the record before us.
In other words, the trust didn't even wait for the Court of Appeal to tell it that it had lost. It listened to its lawyer when he told them in no uncertain terms "you are going to lose this case, so any more time you spend on it will just cost you more money", and then abandoned it.
Now, were that the end of the story, it would be a somewhat amusing example of some overenthusiastic zealots bring told by the courts to go away and stop trying to get judges to resolve an argument that properly belongs to another intellectual discipline. However, it isn't quite the end of the story.
Because, not only did the High Court decide that the trust's case was so hopeless from the get-go that it ought to pay NIWA's costs, it also increased the amount that the trust had to pay to reflect the haphazard way it was presented. The Court of Appeal then upheld that decision, rejecting the trust's claim that there was a public interest in its action as follows:
 As to that, we observe that only after the late intervention of former counsel was the case sensibly articulated in the High Court. Even then, it had no prospect of success, both because of the inherent difficulty of challenging a decision of this kind and because the challenge turned on disputed facts which were not susceptible to determination on judicial review. By way of illustration, we observe that the trust initially characterised NIWA’s temperature records as the official New Zealand record, but that allegation was abandoned in the High Court. It was also open to the [High Court] Judge to conclude that the trust has mounted something of a crusade against NIWA’s records.
 In the circumstances, we are not persuaded that the Judge was wrong to refuse the trust a reduction in [the trust's] liability for costs on public interest grounds. On the contrary, we agree with him that the trust did not act reasonably.
Just to really rub it in, the Court of Appeal continued by saying it also was "not prepared to discount costs in this Court, where despite Mr Illingworth’s best efforts in introducing commendable focus to the argument on appeal, the trust cannot claim to have acted reasonably."
All of which left the "New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust" owing NIWA something well over $100,000 - that's in addition to any amounts it would have had to pay out to its own lawyers. Which is where the real kicker comes in.
You see, the trust in question had been set up only a week before the court action was filed against NIWA. And as I wrote at the time,
[T]he only reason I can think of to set up a charitable trust and then use it as a vehicle to run a court case is to avoid liability for costs should a court decide to award them against you when you lose. In other words, it's hardly a move that screams confidence (not to mention the small ethical matter of the claimants seeking to avoid any potential liability to the taxpayer for the money that will be spent in opposing their little piece of theatre).
Which appears to be exactly what has now happened. According to this account, the trust has been liquidated after NIWA sought to recover its debt, with one of its trustees stating that; "To my knowledge, there is no money. We spent a large amount of money on the court case, there were some expensive legal technicalities."
Whether this little subterfuge is successful remains to be seen. NIWA is making noises about personally chasing two of the trust's more prominent members - former wine journalist Terry Dunleavy, a Justice of the Peace and MBE, and retired lawyer Barry Brill, a former National MP - for the money owed to it. But if the various members of the "New Zealand Climate Science Education Trust" have any honour, it won't come to that.
After all, if your cause is so just and your actions so noble, surely you're prepared to put your money where your mouth is?