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U-Va. asks judge to quash Cuccinelli subpoena

Rosalind Helderman

The University of Virginia filed a motion in court Thursday asking a judge to intervene and set aside Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's civil investigative demand for documents related to the work of former climate scientist Michael Mann.

In the university's motion, filed in circuit court in Albemarle County, lawyers for the school argue the state's top law enforcement officer's request violates Mann's freedom of speech and threatens academic freedom.

"We are fighting for preservation of the basic principles on which our country was founded," said University rector John O. Wynne in a statement.

University President John T. Casteen III said Cuccinelli's demand "has sent a chill through the Commonwealth¹s colleges and universities -- a chill that has reached across the country and attracted the attention of all of higher education."

University lawyers also wrote in the filing that Cuccinelli failed to state in his subpoena the nature of Mann's conduct that led him to believe the scientist had committed fraud, as required in Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.

Cuccinelli issued the demand using the 2002 law, designed to pursue cases against government employees who commit fraud with taxpayer dollars. Cuccinelli has said he is investigating whether Mann, a leading proponent of global warming who now works at Penn State University, committed fraud as he sought five grants for his research.

The university's decision will please academics from around the country, who had urged the school's governing board to fight Cuccinelli's request.

University lawyers say in their filing that they believe Cuccinelli's request was unprecedented. "The CIDs at issue thus exceed the limited investigative authority granted to the Attorney General under [the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act]. Permitting them to be used in the sweeping fashion attempted here would impair academic freedom in the Commonwealth," lawyers for the university write.

Much more to come as we read through the motion and get reaction to it.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  May 27, 2010; 2:40 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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