CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Legal Newsline) - A ruling is expected in a week on a demand by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli that the University of Virginia release research records of a well-known climate change researcher, according to The New York Times.
Cuccinelli has demanded that the university produce information relating to grant applications by Michael E. Mann, who the Times calls a "prominent climate scientist." It was Mann who produced the widely publicized "hockey stick" graph showing a sharp increase in global average temperatures in the industrial age.
Mann worked at UVA from 1999-2005 and has since taught at Penn State University. 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.
Several investigations, including an extensive review of his research by PSU, have cleared him of academic misconduct.
Cuccinelli, a Republican and climate change skeptic, has already sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency to try to prevent it from imposing regulations on carbon dioxide and other climate-altering gases.
Now, the attorney general has demanded that UVA release documents relating to Mann's grant applications at the university.
According to an article published in the Times on Tuesday, Cuccinelli suspects Mann may have violated the state's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act by manipulating data in applications for more than $450,000 in research grants.
But Mann and the university contend the attorney general is engaged in a "witch hunt" and is violating both academic freedom and the First Amendment.
In a court hearing last week in Charlottesville, the home of the university, Chuck Rosenberg, a lawyer for UVA, said Cuccinelli failed to specify exactly what Mann had done wrong.
The deputy attorney general, Wesley Russell, told the Times the state needed e-mails and other forms of documentation from the university to determine if Mann falsified data in seeking state grants.
The inquiry, Russell said, wasn't intended to squash or censure Mann's work, but simply to uncover any misuse of public money.
According to the Times, Mann denied any wrongdoing and didn't attend last week's hearing.
The retired Albemarle County Circuit Court judge, Paul M. Peatross Jr., said he would rule by the end of the month.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.