Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a heckler of higher education in his state (and probably all states) and a climate science heretic, must wait to get the information he asks of the University of Virginia and its association with super-researcher Michael Mann, at least until a hearing August 20 on whether Cuccinelli is trying to act bigger than his breeches beyond his constitutional powers.
Albemarle County Circuit Judge Cheryl V. Higgins has temporarily stayed a subpoena that demands the University of Virginia produce reams of documents related to the research activities of a former climate change researcher.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli issued a civil investigative demand – which carries the legal force of a subpoena – in search of documents relating to Michael Mann, a prominent climate change scientist who worked at UVa from 1999 to 2005.
Cuccinelli, a climate change skeptic, has said he is seeking evidence of possible violations of Virginia’s anti-fraud law in connection with five grants totaling $466,000 that Mann obtained while at UVa.
UVa has challenged Cuccinelli’s CID in court, arguing that it is unprecedented, overly broad, oversteps the attorney general’s authority, and violates the basic tenet of academic freedom.
Higgins’ order allows UVa to hold off on Cuccinelli’s demand until the dispute is resolved in court.
A hearing date has been set for Aug. 20.
Resources, and more:
- Washington Post’s Virginia Politics blog with essentially the same report; on June 16, blog author Rosalind Helderman explained the arguments Cuccinelli’s crew made against the University of Virginia’s claim that the subpoena threatens academic freedom of professors
- According to a report at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Cuccinelli admitted his investigation is not on state fraud for state money, but instead is aimed at the data Dr. Mann gathered and reported; this would be an area of federal jurisdiction since the research was done for federal research agencies, and raises the issue of federal pre-emption, among other thorny issues.
- In an editorial on May 28, the Washington Post lauded the University of Virginia for fighting the subpoena, and stopped short of saying Cuccinelli is engaged in a McCarthy-style witch hunt. Some things go without saying:
It’s not just that Mr. Cuccinelli has presented no real evidence that Mr. Mann did anything “fraudulent” while conducting his research, applying for his grants or analyzing his data; in fact, Mr. Cuccinelli’s targeting of Mr. Mann appears to be based on little more than a misreading of e-mails the scientist wrote. Multiple scientific review committees have examined Mr. Mann’s work, and all have cleared the scientist of wrongdoing.
- The New York Times reported that 325 Virginia scientists and 575 others signed a petition put together by the Union of Concerned Scientists telling Cuccinelli to back off because his actions threaten science. It is not clear how many signers are named “Steve,” but rumors are that more Virginia-based Steves signed this petition than any petition from the deniers.
- That letter was published in Science:
We also call for an end to McCarthy-like threats of criminal prosecution against our colleagues based on innuendo and guilt by association, the harassment of scientists by politicians seeking distractions to avoid taking action, and the outright lies being spread about them. Society has two choices: We can ignore the science and hide our heads in the sand and hope we are lucky, or we can act in the public interest to reduce the threat of global climate change quickly and substantively. The good news is that smart and effective actions are possible. But delay must not be an option.