Cuccinelli uses court filing to dispute Mann climate research
The University of Virginia holds documents relevant to an ongoing fraud investigation--which is the only standard that should govern whether the university must respond to a subpoena for those documents, lawyers for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli argued in a 41-page brief filed in Albemarle County Circuit Court Tuesday.
Cuccinelli (R) contends that academic freedom does not shield the university from turning over documents in a fraud probe conducted by his office. But he also seizes the opportunity to dispute climate change research.
The filing is the latest legal salvo in Cuccinelli's fight with U-Va. over whether it will turn over documents related to the work of a former professor, climate scientist Michael Mann. Cuccinelli has said he is investigating whether Mann committed fraud while seeking five public grants while employed at the university. He issued a civil subpoena to the university for documents and emails.
Lawyers for U-Va. have asked countered that Cuccinelli's request violates Mann's academic freedom and that the attorney general has no reasonable basis to believe fraud took place. They've asked a judge to set the demand aside.
More than half of the brief relates to legal arguments Cuccinelli has advanced before in the case. His lawyers write that the legal standard for issuing the Civil Investigative Demand that Cuccinelli sent to the school in April is merely whether the entity holds documents relevant to the investigation. Clearly, Cuccinelli's lawyers argue, the university holds such documents and thus must comply. Academic freedom is no defense to participation in a legal investigation into whether fraud has been committed with taxpayer dollars, they say.
But all of that legal discussion comes after a 17-page description of why Cuccinelli has "reason to believe" that Mann might have committed fraud as he sought public grants for his research.
We're betting this is the section of the filing that's going to get the most attention. In it, Cuccinelli's lawyers argue in essence that a small group of scientists including Mann have, essentially, manipulated scientific conclusions for years to produce results that would support massive regulation of carbon dioxide.
The also spend some time disputing Mann's best known scientific conclusion--the so-called Hockey Stick graph that indicated the earth has experienced a recent, rapid warming.
Cuccinelli's filing concedes that several previous inquiries into Mann's work have cleared him of academic wrongdoing and fraud. Those investigations include one concluded at Penn State University, where he now works, just last week.
Cuccinelli's lawyers argue none of those inquiries examined Mann's grant applications at the University of Virginia, where he worked until 2005, nor whether Mann violated the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. Instead of undermining the request for documents, Cuccinelli's office say the number of previous investigations shows there is some reasonable basis for questioning Mann's actions.
"Simply put, the other investigations confirm that there is substancial reason to inquire, but none can 'clear' Mann of violating FATA because no one, other than the Attorney General, has asked that question," they write.
The filing also reveals that the university claimed that it no longer held emails from Mann when they were requested through a Freedom of Information Act by Del. Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) in December 2009. But after receiving the attorney general's civil subpoena, the university revealed that it could resurrect the emails from university servers.
The university must respond to the attorney general's brief by July 20 and oral arguments have been set for August 20.
July 13, 2010; 4:53 PM ET
Categories: Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman
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