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Cuccinelli tells court former U-Va. professor's academic freedom not threatened

Rosalind Helderman

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has told a judge that his request for documents related to the work of former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann should be granted because neither academic freedom nor the First Amendment "immunizes" a person from a fraud investigation.

The university has petitioned a judge to set aside Cuccinelli's "civil investigative demand," essentially a subpoena, in which he sought seeking emails sent to and from Mann before he left the university in 2005, as well as information about five public grants Mann received while at the school.

Cuccinelli made a lengthy response to the university's petition in an Albemarle Circuit Court on Tuesday. In his answer, a top staff attorney for Cuccinelli rejects several arguments that had been made by the university's lawyers--hired specially to handle the case, which has received national attention.

Cuccinelli notes some documents he has sought are public records that could ordinarily be released through a Freedom of Information request. He also uses Mann's own resume to indicate the grants he has asked about were awarded through the university, even though some involved federal money.

But the core of Cuccinelli's initial response is a rejection of the university's position that turning over Mann's documents would violate his academic freedom. The university had been under significant pressure from academics who believed Cuccinelli's attempt to get the documents was part of a politcally-motivated crusade scientists who have researched global warming. "Academic freedom is neither implicated nor threatened by the CIDs" Cuccinelli's lawyer wrote, arguing that academics have no shield against allegations that they have committed fraud.

His filing includes reference to emails that were leaked from a climate research unit in England in which scientists referred to a statistical "trick" Mann had used during the course of his resesearch. The university argued several investigations launched into Mann's work in response to the emails had cleared him of wrongdoing. But Cuccinelli's filing notes those investigations did not have access to the information he is now seeking from the university.

The legal back-and-forth over the subpoena is only just beginning. Both sides will now file full legal briefs defending their positions. A circuit court judge will also likely hear oral arguments in the case before ruling.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  June 16, 2010; 5:21 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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The gist of Cucineeli's argument is that the University must show that fraud wasn't committed, and produce all documents for and against.
It stands the presumption of innocence on its head.

Posted by: krickey7 | June 16, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse


Why don't you investigate Tommy Thompson of the Navy Vets Charity Organization for giving you $50,000 that he obtained via fraudulent charity activity? Oh, and maybe tell the Governor that that law he signed into effect that lets military charities avoid registration with the state -- well tell him that he done got fooled.

Let the Washington Post know when you have completed your fraud investigation so the public can be informed. We will be waiting, Ken. You have time to go on fishing expeditions for fraud, now is the time for you to investigate some of the more obvious cases.

Or are you just another corrupt politician?


Posted by: slydell | June 16, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

The data by the scientist was fraudulent case closed, put up or shut down.

Posted by: zcxnissan | June 17, 2010 12:38 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if Republicans fight global warming research because they are scared that one day their grandchildren will look them in the eyes with hatred for poisoning their world. They think that invalidating others will somehow get rid of their sins in their unyielding quest for the almighty dollar.

Posted by: slydell | June 17, 2010 12:55 AM | Report abuse

If there is anything wrong with the science that is being done by this scientist at UVA, the people to address that are his peers in the scientific community. This is the concept of peer-reviewed science. It is not the role of the state attorney general. Whatever happened to limited government? This is a useless waste of state resources.

I post Cuccinelli updates on my facebook profile so that friends in other state can see how crazy my state's attorney general is. Ah well, it was about time to update the feed anyway.

Posted by: yh132 | June 17, 2010 8:12 AM | Report abuse

So which of those five grants Cuccinelli wants to investigate have committee's that requested Cuccinelli launch a fraud investigation?

Is Cuccinelli investigating the committee's themselves?

Since when do the police have the authoriety to claim a crime was committed on their own, simply to go after someone?

I don't understand how McDonnell can sit there and let Cuccinelli run rampant.

He is as bad as Cuccinelli.

Posted by: MarilynManson | June 17, 2010 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Cuckoo Nelly thinks a lot of research is fraudulent, like all the work done on evolution, the heliocentric model of the solar system, and pretty much anything else he disagrees with.
If he really is worried about fraud in academe, he should look into why George Mason University awarded him a degree. I'm a GMU alum myself, and when I was there you actually had to learn stuff to get a degree.

Posted by: jlhare1 | June 17, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Michael Mann's peers within UVA and within the larger scientific community should be the ones to judge the validity of his research. The scientific community is very thorough in this respect and would not tolerate any errors or misrepresentation.

Cuccinelli's lawsuit is obviously political. He is out to please his right-wing constituents and to give his donors from the dirty energy industries their money's worth.

Posted by: grover19 | June 17, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Talk about waste, fraud and abuse- Koo-koo-nelli is wasting taxpayer dollars because of his personal right-wing-nut beliefs. He is not fighting crime in Virginia. He has no right to think he should be paid for his anti-science,anti-education crusade- I want my money back! He has to go!

Posted by: lsf07 | June 17, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

As I have written before about the Kookie Ken, he is a disgrace to the Commonwealth of Virginia. As a UVa grad (of many years ago), I hope they fight and make an example of his stupidity.

Posted by: fairness3 | June 17, 2010 10:38 AM | Report abuse

It does not appear that any who has commented has read through either the AG response or the UVA petition. AG Cuccinelli's response is not "lengthy". While the entire document is 52 pages, the response is only 9 pages double spaced, plus exhibit A which is the 12 page petition filed by UVA, plus exhibit B which is 28 page Michael Mann's Curriculeum Vitae, plus exhibit C which is a 3 page letter dated May 6 outlining the agreement between attorneys regarding the only objection raised by UVA which was the breadth of the CID.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | June 17, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

It does not appear that any who has commented has read through either the AG response or the UVA petition. AG Cuccinelli's response is not "lengthy". While the entire document is 52 pages, the response is only 9 pages double spaced, plus exhibit A which is the 12 page petition filed by UVA, plus exhibit B which is 28 page Michael Mann's Curriculeum Vitae, plus exhibit C which is a 3 page letter dated May 6 outlining the agreement between attorneys regarding the only objection raised by UVA which was the breadth of the CID.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | June 17, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

C'mon Kooki you're no scientist.

Posted by: UnknownHenson | June 17, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I just love it when the people who complain the most about frivolous lawsuits, file 'em.

And, this is about as frivolous as it gets. To push a political agenda by tying up the courts is obscene on every level you can think of.

Posted by: edismae | June 17, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse

The gist is the AG response to petition paragraph 7 which Ms. Helderman acknowledges. However she did not choose to mention another part of that paragraph and the AG response which nearly all responders here do not want to hear nor believe. That is the response cites VA law which restricts who can see the information and how it can and cannot be used. This law denies the speculative uses which opponents seem to fear so much. Here is the law:

Posted by: BruceFairfax | June 17, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps most newsworthy, and presumably mentioned elsewhere in the press, the response to petition paragraph 10 notes that UVA had previously denied that they had backups of certain Mann e-mails until they started looking in response to the CID. UVA realized that they did have e-mails backed-up on a "previously overlooked backup e-mail server containing responsive documents" and the response states that previous investigations did not have access to those e-mails. That should be the headline content.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | June 17, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Since when does having a Phd put you above the law? The Virginia Fraud statue EXPLICITLY states that Universities, and their employees are FULL accountable under the law, an NO exemption exists. It is black and white letter of the law, no matter what your opinion is on academic freedom.

If a judge lets UVA off the hook, Universities just became above the law. Academic peer review does not trump judicial peer review.

Letting "fellow academics" judge Mann is like letting "fellow oil execs" judge BP.

Posted by: ecocampaigner | June 18, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

The reporting on this story has not been good. Read the comments and you can see how confused people are about what is going on.

Of course the government can investigate Mann. This is essentially an audit. If Mann has committed fraud, then he and the university have to return money to Virginia. Even if Mann has committed fraud, he will not be sent to prison. This is only about the money. And Cuccinelli is not judging the science. The people who think it is are way, way off base. The reporter should do a better job of explaining what Cuccinelli is looking at.

Mann and the university should stop complaining and turn over the documents. Thye are acting like they are guilty! If I was Cuccinelli, I would keep pressing.

Posted by: RonInIrvine | June 20, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Academics and journalists both like to assert a special immunity from the law, and become incensed when they are suspected of breaking it.

"Hide the decline. Good trick."

Posted by: geeyore | June 20, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Mann is a politician masquerading as a scientist. Many of his statements, both in the emails and in public verify this. His research papers have been proven to be worthless.

He needs to be exposed. I'm not sure this is the way to do it, but it needs to be done. He's a cancer in the body of climate science.

Posted by: theduke89 | June 20, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

In other scientific fields, scientists WANT others to validate their work; they don't hide it. But these people are trying hard to keep the public from seeing their data and methods.

Both the university and Michael Mann are acting like they have something very bad that they're desperately trying to hide. Why not simply cooperate with the audit? This isn't nuclear defense secrets they're hiding. It is simply weather data and related communications, which the public paid for.

The apparent fraud involved is shown by Mann's "hockey stick" chart, which mendaciously erased the Medieval Warm Period in an effort to show that current temperatures are unusually high; they are not - both the MWP and the Minoan Optimum were significantly warmer than today.

Based largely on Mann's fraudulent chart, the UN/IPCC pushed the Kyoto Protocol, which was designed to heavily tax Western countries - primarily the U.S.

But Mann's chart was debunked by McIntyre and McKittrick, whose work was later verified in the Wegman et al. Report to Congress. They showed that even inputting noise into Mann's algorithm resulted in a hockey stick shape.

Shenanigans are going on in climate science, which has been thoroughly corrupted by the huge amounts of grant money available. A prime example of this corruption is in the climate peer review process - which Michael Mann largely controls, as is made clear in the Climategate emails. A fascinating example can be found by doing a search for: "Caspar and the Jesus Paper".

The requested information was paid for by taxpayers, and AG Cucinelli has more than enough evidence of fraud to proceed with his audit.

Posted by: Smokey48 | June 20, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

slydell says: "I wonder if Republicans fight global warming research because they..."

Are you kidding? It's not "global warming research" that most are fighting. It is fraudulent, data-manipulating, politicized, grant-money corrupted, pseudo-science that most are fighting. Don't try to elevate climate scientists whereby they are immune to public scrutiny, regardless of funding source. Money, power and political influence can just as easily corrupt public figures as private.

Posted by: obamafatigue | June 20, 2010 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Those who embrace AGW use personal attacks to try and silence anyone who wants to verify the science behind the AGW claims. Mann and friends have done everything they can to prevent anyone from checking their data and methodology. Therefore, since Mann et al refuse to follow the time honored scientific method, maybe it is time for Attorney Generals to start issuing subpoenas. U VA and Mann certainly look like they might have something to hide. And lest we forget, the TAXPAYERS paid for this research!

Posted by: jayhdavis | June 20, 2010 7:20 PM | Report abuse

It is astonishing that Penn State, a tax payer supported institution, takes the side
of a faculty member being investigated for what is essentially a charge of defrauding taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the same is probably true of many of our universtiies.

Posted by: ssquared | June 20, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

It is astonishing that Penn State, a tax payer supported institution, takes the side
of a faculty member being investigated for what is essentially a charge of defrauding taxpayers.

Unfortunately, the same is probably true of many of our universtiies.

Posted by: ssquared | June 20, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Scientists are not above the law and Mann should be investigated. AGW seems riddled with opacity, ideology, conflicts of interests and exaggerations...and all too often 'lost data' when scrutinized closely enough.

Dr Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, a rational warmist has expressed my long-held belief as a medical researcher here:

Climate scientists are misusing Academmic Science to directly drive major nationwide social policy, without the necessary intervening phase of audited Regulated Science, as is done with critical areas such as medical research, aviation industry and the nuclear industry.

In Regulated Science - if you 'lost' the data, whatever the reason - you don't get to market the drug or build the new type of reactor. Period. You find the data or repeat the research. Same should go for Climate Science and green industry, which hugelly impact the lives and health of billions of people.

Posted by: michaelc58 | June 21, 2010 4:50 AM | Report abuse

Academic freedom stops when the professors step into the political fight. It is one thing to investigate scientific mysteries, quite another to espouse a political agenda. One should be protected, the other exposed to the rough-and-tumble world of politics.

The use of taxpayer money to fund research means that the research and all the records pertaining thereto belong to the public. Reticence on the part of the institutions is indicative of a guilty conscience. Not to mention the fear that the University might have to cough up megabucks to repay the funds misused by Dr. Mann.

As a once member of the bar of the Commonwealth, I am sorry to see that it takes the AG to probe into this, but the smell of fraud permeates the entire AGW scene.

Posted by: Cjbrock1215 | June 21, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Ken where is your evidence of what you are allegating. If you have enough bonafide evidence put it on the table.

There is more than enough evidence that what Mr. Mann has done deserves at the very least an Academia censure and loss of tenure. I think it will come out that he has violated several tenants (implied and detailed) of the Freedom of Infomation act both in America and in Great Britain.
He through his actions has cost American tax payers Billions of dollars in continued funding through grants and scholarships.

He has lied to the US Senate. He has bastardized the name of science and the name of education.

If nothing else at the very least Michael Mann deserves nothing less than to have his teaching credentials in America revoked for life. This man is a travesty to US higher education. He has violated every tenant of the Scientific Method, he has violated the written and unwritten code of the peer review process, and passed these lies on to the IPCC which has used his mis-information to push an agenda to the policy makers of the world.

Unfortunately in the case of Phil Jones' mockery of a trial which never even began, it is obvious that the British Justice system has been bought by the IPCC and the United Nations.
I'm hoping that there are still a few people on the side of the law in the United States that care more about justice and doing the right thing than there are in Britain.

Posted by: osiguy | June 22, 2010 9:03 PM | Report abuse

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