Cuccinelli barred from accessing University documents

University deemed exempt from Civil Investigative Demands

The Virginia Supreme Court handed down a decision yesterday denying Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's claim that he has the right to review former University Environmental Sciences Prof. Michael Mann's research produced during his time at the University.The Supreme Court ruled that state agencies, such as the University,cannot be considered 'persons' under the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act and accordingly cannot be the subject of a Civil Investigative Demand such as the one Cuccinelli issued.

University President Teresa Sullivan issued a statement yesterday 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.\nCuccinelli first requested access to Mann's research grant applications and emails in April 2010, allegedly to determine whether Mann had committed fraud in his research. Mann, who is now on the faculty of Pennsylvania State University, had been conducting research on global warming 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 wrote in an email yesterday.

Mann said the Inspector General of the National Science Foundation had reviewed his research in the context of Cuccinelli's allegations, and found the allegations to be baseless.

In August 2010 an Albemarle County Circuit judge denied Cuccinelli's request to access Mann's documents. 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 quash yesterday, University Spokesperson Carol Wood said in an email.

The University spent a total of $570,697.97 fighting the CIDs on a private defense from the Washington, D.C. law firm Hogan Lovells. All of the money came from private funds, Wood said.

Published March 4, 2012 in News

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