Judge releases ruling in case against U.Va.
Final opinion says Cuccinelli does not have strong enough evidence for civil investigative demand for papers
Attorney General and University alumnus Ken Cuccinelli's attempt to seek documents belonging to former University Prof. Michael Mann was nipped in the bud yesterday in an Albemarle County Circuit Court.
Cuccinelli had initially alleged that Mann's climate change research, which shows the steady escalation of the Earth's temperatures during the past two decades, was fraudulent in receiving funds from the state. Judge Paul M. Peatross, Jr. held that although Cuccinelli has the right to investigate state grants to professors such as Mann, he did not present sufficient evidence of any fraudulent conduct to substantiate a civil investigative demand.
The ruling prevented Cuccinelli from pursuing an investigation that would force Mann, now the director of the Penn State Earth and Science Center, to disclose more information surrounding the conduct of his research.
Peatross' ruling offered mixed messages for both sides of the case because although Cuccinelli's demand did not go forward, the ruling also stated that though the University is a public corporation created for purpose, it is a public institution and therefore "governed and controlled by the state." Consequently, the attorney general is permitted to investigate state grants to professors such as Mann, provided that Cuccinelli give specific conduct to investigate.
"According to the judge, Cuccinelli asserted that there was some reason to investigate without offering any facts to support it," University Law Prof. Richard Schragger said.
Peatross held that Cuccinelli does not have "unbridled discretion" to review professors and instead must found civil investigative demands on an "objective basis."\nIn turn, the ruling did not directly address issues of academic freedom, Schragger said, "because [Cuccinelli] did not even meet the minimum demand of investigative requirement."
Cuccinelli, who is skeptical about global warming, surmised that Mann's research was manipulated to receive grants. Mann, however, called the inquiry into his records "a fishing expedition," as "it was not clear what [Cuccinelli's] investigation was seeking."
The case attracted nationwide attention, with controversy arising as to just how much academic freedom is allowed to a professor. It generated a reaction from the Faculty Senate, the Board of Visitors, the American Association of University Professors, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Civil Liberties Union presented an amicus brief to the court.
A statement released by the University emphasized that the attorney general failed to support any allegation that Mann engaged in fraudulent conduct and that academic freedom should inform the propriety of an inquiry into the conduct of University faculty.
According to a press release, Cuccinelli said although the decision was not an outright ruling in his favor, he is pleased that the judge has agreed with his office on key legal points and has given him a framework for issuing a new demand. Cuccinelli also stated in the press release he has yet to decide whether to appeal part of the ruling.