UVa wants Cuccinelli's probe stayed

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 23, 2010, 10:35am


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Legal Newsline) - The University of Virginia has filed its responses to the latest civil investigative demand issued by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli in the matter of climate research by a former university professor.

The university, in filings Wednesday, is asking the court to set aside the latest demand, which "targets the same professor on the same grounds that the court already found insufficient," it argues. It also has filed a motion to stay while Cuccinelli appeals a circuit court judge's ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court.

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. of Albemarle County Circuit Court had set aside the attorney general's original civil investigative demand issued on Aug. 30.

However, on Sept. 29, Cuccinelli submitted a narrower demand, seeking information on one $214,700 grant issued by the university to former professor Michael Mann and two other researchers.

Citing Virginia's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, the attorney general wants to investigate whether Mann used fraudulent data to obtain the funds.

Mann, an assistant professor of environmental sciences at the university from 1999 to 2005, is known for his research on global warming. He now teaches at Pennsylvania State University.

It was Mann who produced the widely publicized "hockey stick" graph showing a sharp increase in global average temperatures in the industrial age.

His work was called into question in the investigations into the so-called Climategate scandal following the unauthorized release of hundreds of e-mails from a British climate center last fall.

However, several investigations, including an extensive review of his research by Penn State, have cleared him of academic misconduct.

University of Virginia spokeswoman Carol Wood told the Richmond Times-Dispatch of its responses, "The motion is intended to avoid the waste of the parties' and the circuit court's resources in litigating the next round before the Supreme Court has an opportunity to weigh in on the prior ruling and to decide whether to hear it or not."

Mann, himself, and the university have contended the attorney general is engaged in a "witch hunt" and is violating both academic freedom and the First Amendment.

A spokesman for the attorney general told the newspaper the new demand simply was written to be consistent with the judge's ruling.

Cuccinelli, a Republican, has already sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency to try to prevent it from imposing regulations on carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases.

The attorney general, a known global warming skeptic, has maintained he is investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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