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Judge Refuses Va. AG’s Request for Records of Global Warming Scientist

Posted Aug 31, 2010 7:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A Virginia judge has blocked an attempt by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to obtain records of a global warming scientist.

Cuccinelli is a global warming skeptic, and he wanted the records as part of a probe into possible fraud in taxpayer-funded research on the issue by former professor Michael Mann at the University of Virginia, the Washington Post reports. Mann's work was in the spotlight last November after he was referenced in leaked e-mails in which scientists bluntly critiqued the research. Global warming skeptics cited the e-mails as evidence of rigged data, while scientists said the words were taken out of context, according to a Washington Post story published at the time.

On Monday, Judge Paul Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli failed to show a sufficient basis for his civil investigative demand for records of Mann’s work, according to stories by the Post, the Virginian-Pilot, and Inside Higher Ed.

"What the attorney general suspects that Dr. Mann did that was false or fraudulent in obtaining the funds from the Commonwealth is simply not stated," Peatross wrote. He also ruled that Cuccinelli could investigate only work funded by state grants, and not those involving federal funds.

Cuccinelli said the ruling provides a framework for his office to craft a new investigative demand. “We are going to issue a new CID that conforms to the judge’s ruling. We will also take time to fully examine the decision and all of the available options before deciding whether or not to also appeal aspects of the ruling,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.

Mann, now at Pennsylvania State University, praised the ruling as "a victory not just for me and the university, but for all scientists who live in fear that they may be subject to a politically motivated witch hunt when their research findings prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests,” the Virginian-Pilot reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union and several academic groups supported Mann and the university in the litigation. A Washington Post editorial calls Cuccinelli’s demand “a pernicious fishing expedition.”

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