Rebuffed by court, Cuccinelli tries again to obtain private records of former professor.
Charlottesville, VA—Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has again issued a “civil investigative demand” to the University of Virginia for access to documents related to the research of a global warming expert once employed by the school.
The AG’s demand alleges that former UVA professor Michael Mann may have violated the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act when seeking state funding for his research. Mann, now at Penn State University, used his research at UVA to assert a scientific basis for global warming, a conclusion disputed by Cuccinelli. UVA has said it will fight the demand in court.
Dated September 29, the demand describes papers of Dr. Mann that Cuccinelli says “have come under significant scientific criticism” and “demonstrate a complete lack of rigor regarding the statistical analysis of the alleged data.” The demand claims that the use of those or similar papers in support of an application for a UVA grant may have been “misleading” and thus a violation of the state fraud law.
“At most, this new demand alleges bad science, not fraud,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “Scientists frequently criticize one another’s data collection practices, statistical analyses, and scientific conclusions. Such disagreements are how science moves forward. For the Attorney General to suggest that criticisms of Mann’s work form a basis for legal liability sets a dangerous precedent that could hinder scientific progress and chill academic freedom.”
This is the AG’s second attempt to access Mann’s records. The controversy began in April, when Cuccinelli issued a demand for records regarding five grants received by Mann. When UVA officials stated that they were inclined to give into the AG’s demands, the ACLU of Virginia and the American Association of University Professors wrote a letter asking UVA to stand up for academic freedom by fighting the demand in court.
Later, when UVA filed a petition to set aside the demand, the ACLU of Virginia, along with the AAUP, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, filed an amicus brief supporting UVA.
In August, the Albemarle County Circuit Court threw out the AG’s demand, ruling that he had failed to specify the nature of the conduct alleged to be fraudulent and that he had no authority under Virginia law to seek records related to four of the five grants in question since they were federally, not state, funded.
Kent Willis, Executive Director