Court delivers Cuccinelli, Mann decision
Justices bar Attorney General from accessing scientistís documents, deem University exempt from Civil Investigative Demands
The Virginia Supreme Court ruled this month that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli does not have the right to review former University Environmental Sciences Prof. Michael Mann's research produced during his time at the University.
The Supreme Court decided state agencies, such as the University, cannot be considered 'persons' under the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, and therefore cannot be the subject of a Civil Investigative Demand such as the one Cuccinelli issued.
University President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement March 2 thanking the University's faculty and the faculty at other universities for their support.
"This is an important decision that will be welcomed here and in [the] broader higher education community," Sullivan said.
Cuccinelli first requested access to Mann's research grant applications and emails April 2010, allegedly to determine whether Mann had committed fraud during his research. Mann, now a member of Pennsylvania State University's faculty, had been conducting research about global warming while at the University.
Mann was an assistant professor in the University's environmental sciences department from 1999 to 2005.
"[The inquiries are] a coordinated assault against the scientific community by powerful vested interests who simply want to stick their heads in the sand and deny the problem of human-caused climate change, rather than engage in the good faith debate about what to do about it," Mann said in an email.
Mann said the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation had reviewed his research in the context of Cuccinelli's allegations and had found the allegations to be baseless.
Albemarle County Circuit Judge Paul Peatross denied Cuccinelli's request to access Mann's documents in August 2010. Cuccinelli then appealed his case to the state's Supreme Court. He also filed another CID while the first case was being appealed, which the University filed a motion to deny, University Spokesperson Carol Wood said in an email.
The University spent a total of $570,697.97 to hire Hogan Lovells, a Washington, D.C. law firm, to fight the CIDs. Wood said all funds came from private funds.
Virginia Senate Democrats at Wednesday's legislative session presented amendments to the proposed budget which would reimburse the University for the funds spent in the fight.
Jeff Ryer, spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus, said the amendments were so new he could not yet gauge Senate support.
"I don't think anyone's had an opportunity to analyze it; I understand [it was proposed] less than 48 hours ago," Ryer said Friday.
Though senators did not complete deliberation of the budget by the Saturday deadline, Ryer said the Senate Finance Committee analyzed the reimbursement Friday.
-Michelle Davis contributed to this report