Judge blocks Cuccinelli climate-change investigation

An Albemarle County judge has blocked Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s first effort to require the University of Virginia to turn over documents related to a former professor’s research on climate change.

The ruling was handed down on Monday, and Cuccinelli’s office responded with a comment attributed to the Republican promising that he will tailor a second civil investigative demand to the university in the matter that conforms to the ruling on the matter involving research conducted by former UVa. professor Michael Mann.

The first civil investigative demand made of UVa. by Cuccinelli was related to five research grants received by Mann in the 1999-2005 time frame. Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross ruled that the AG’s office failed to show sufficient “reason to believe” that the university possesses documents related to the grants and to Mann’s research suggesting that any fraud had occurred.

“It is not clear what he did was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Peatross wrote.

Peatross also noted in his opinion that Cuccinelli would have to limit the scope of any future civil investigative demand to the one research grant of the five being looked at by the attorney general that was obtained from state taxpayer funds. The other four grants were made from federal funding sources.

There could be a further limitation to the investigation of the one state grant. The law giving Cuccinelli the power to investigate Mann was signed into law in 2003, meaning any disbursements of grant funds before that date would not be subject to civil or criminal investigative review.

The news release from the Cuccinelli office claimed that the ruling agreed with the office on “several key legal points,” spelling out two, regarding whether or not UVa. is a proper subject for a civil investigative demand (it is, according to Peatross) and whether the attorney general may investigate grants made with Commonwealth of Virginia funds (according to the judge, he can).

Those would seem to be hollow victories, though the release quotes Cuccinelli saying his office will “fully examine the decision and all of the available options before deciding whether or not to also appeal aspects of the ruling.”

Mann also issued a statement on the matter, calling today’s ruling “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.”
 
 

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

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