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Posted at 4:30 PM ET, 12/15/2010

UPDATED: Cuccinelli appeals to Virginia Supreme Court over U.-Va. global warming request

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Rosalind S. Helderman

Virginia Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli (R) has appealed a judge's September decision setting aside a civil subpoena he served at the University of Virginia, seeking documents related to the work of a former university climate scientist.

Cuccinelli had earlier indicated his intention to ask the Virginia Supreme Court to review a decision by Albemarle Court Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. quashing his civil investigative demands to the university, on the grounds that he had failed to state an objective reason why he needed the records. On Wednesday, he formally filed a brief arguing his appeal with the supreme court.

Cuccinelli has said he wants to see whether emails and grant documents show Michael Mann, now a professor at Pennsylvania State University, engaged in fraud in research that showed the earth has experienced rapid recent warming. The university has fought the subpoena, arguing Cuccinelli was violating Mann's academic freedom and targeting his research because he disagreed with its findings.

In his brief, Cuccinelli argues that the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, under which he issued the CID, allows him to seek any documents that might help determine whether a fraud investigation is warranted. The circuit court inappropriately quashed in the inquiry, he argues, based on arguments from the university that no fraud took place--such arguments, he contends, are premature.

"To allow these interpretations to stand would not only hinder this investigation, it would significantly limit the ability of the Commonwealth to police fraud in every other context and would undermine the very purposes for which FATA was enacted," lawyers for Cuccinelli wrote.

The appeal is running parallel to a separate attempt by Cuccinelli to compel the university to turn over Mann's emails and grant documents by refiling a new civil investigative demand crafted in an attempt to abide by Peatross' ruling.

The university is fighting that CID as well, once again seeking intervention of the circuit court. Cuccinelli
has moved that their challenge be dismissed. We await a schedule for when the Charlottesville-area judge will hear that argument.

At the Virginia Supreme Court level, the university's lawyers will now respond in writing to the appeal. Eventually, a three judge panel will be convened to hear 10 minutes of oral argument from Cuccinelli's team and then decide whether the full court will hear the appeal.

All of which is to say that the legal skirmish over these global warming related documents won't be ending any time soon.

UPDATE: Francesco Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Scientific Integrity Program, responds to the last Cuccinelli move, from the site of a major annual meeting of earth scientists: "The scientists we've been talking to at the American Geophysical Union understand the threat Cuccinelli and his allies pose to their work. We've collected more than a hundred signatures on a giant card targeted at politicians. It reads 'An attack against one of us is an attack against all of us.'

We are also holding sessions to help scientists understand their rights and responsibilites in the hostile political environment Cuccinelli and others have helped create.

Cuccinelli's lawsuit is an attack against the important role science plays in society, not just an attack against Mann or UVA. It's also a distraction from the need to address climate change. Cuccinelli's lawsuit won't stop the seas from rising at Norfolk."

By Rosalind S. Helderman  | December 15, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli, Rosalind Helderman  
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Seems at the face of it that Ken Cuccinelli is carrying on a fishing expedition. He needs to show evidence that Michael Mann committed fraud. He has none. So he wants to glean evidence from the emails and grant documents. But that's not legal. Cuccinelli must show probable cause to suspect fraud before he can subpoena those documents.

Posted by: mhklein | December 15, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

try reading even some of the text of the AG's appeal to the supreme court... the CID is a pre-investigation demand for documents... it is a search for evidence, if there is no fraud, no charges will be brought. It is legal.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | December 16, 2010 7:55 AM | Report abuse

Nit: that's Francesca Grifo (she, not he). I just talked to here a few hours ago at the AGU meeting.

Lest we forget, recall that Cuccinelli's current complain is heavily-based on the Wegman Report, which has so many problems it was difficult to count.

Meanwhile, people might want to read about how a Virginia school (George Mason University, alma mater of Cuccinelli and Russell), has handled this simple plagiarism case:

Posted by: JohnMashey | December 17, 2010 1:15 AM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed that the Virginia Attorney General is wasting our hard earned tax dollars pursuing a purely political agenda when he should be fighting crime.

Let the professor's fellow academics bring him to task if his data is questionable.
It is not the job of the Attorney General to review scientific journals for merit.

Mr. Cuccinelli is wasting our precious state resources jousting with windmills!

Posted by: KWSpence | December 17, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Even if you disagree with Cuccinelli on the particulars of the global warming issues, you have to agree that an appeal is needed for this reason alone as stated:

"To allow these interpretations to stand would not only hinder this investigation, it would significantly limit the ability of the Commonwealth to police fraud in every other context and would undermine the very purposes for which FATA was enacted," lawyers for Cuccinelli wrote.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | December 18, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Terrorists are being brought to justice in civil courts these days...
Al Gore and the global warming alarmists such as left wing politicians, pseudo scientists, journalists, the Hollywood idiots, have been inflicting psychological terrorism upon a whole generation of children all over the world for the last 15 years.
These charlatans should be brought to justice as the perpetrators of the biggest scam in the history of this planet.
The social,financial and psychological damages that they caused are beyond comprehension.
No criminal organization in history has come even close to having such a desastruous impact on so many people, for such a long time, and make so much money in the process.
They should not be permitted to get away with it.
Hundred of billions have been wasted on a fraud, social and economical policies have been altered based on a fraud….the moral authors of this fraud should be in jail for the rest of their lives and their fortune seized.

Posted by: laur_augustrush | December 19, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse

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