University of Virginia Continues to Stand Up to Ken Cuccinelli's Politically Motivated Attack on Climate Scientist

The sorry saga continues...

WASHINGTON (October 21, 2010) - Yesterday, the University of Virginia made two court filings in its fight against Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's politically motivated investigation of climate scientist Michael Mann.

In its most strongly-worded court filing to date (pdf), UVA characterized Cuccinelli's investigation as "an unprecedented and improper governmental intrusion into ongoing scientific research" and said that Cuccinelli is targeting Mann because he "disagrees with his academic research regarding climate change."

UVA also argued that Cuccinelli's latest demand for documents related to Mann's research, filed in September, repeated the same exact arguments a county court judge rejected in August and added no new justifications for his investigation. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) examined Cuccinelli's original arguments and found they recycled discredited attacks on Mann and his colleagues.

"Scientists are proud of UVA for standing up to this relentless rubbish," said Francesca Grifo, director of UCS's Scientific Integrity Program. "This investigation has never been about fraud or the facts. Cuccinelli is abusing his power to fight a public relations war against scientific findings."

In a separate filing (pdf), UVA also asked the county court to put the case on hold while the Virginia Supreme Court resolves an appeal Cuccinelli filed seeking to overturn a previous August ruling rejecting his investigation. The university argued that putting the case on hold would save the court system time and resources because the cases involve the same parties and the same arguments. UVA already has spent $350,000 fighting Cuccinelli's investigation.

"UVA realizes more than anyone - save perhaps Michael Mann - what a waste of time and resources this investigation has become," Grifo said. "It's ironic that Ken Cuccinelli, who so vociferously opposes increased government spending, can waste taxpayer money with an entirely gratuitous investigation."

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For those who haven't heard rightwing extremist Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has subpoenaed all of the documents related to climatologist Michael Mann's state-funded research while Mann was at the University of Virginia (italics mine): In papers sent to UVA April 23, Cuccinelli's…

Would not giving this man what he has asked for be:

1) Cheaper.
2) A way of defusing the whole controversy.

Am I missing something?

Send him a dump of the whole University's emails. Let him pick the bones out of that. It should have been done at once. Resistance like this is only going to encourage someone to think conspiracy and dig his heels in.

Or am I being hopelessly niaive?

By Jack Savage (not verified) on 21 Oct 2010 #permalink

"Let him pick the bones out of that"

Or cherry pick the juicy bits out of context.

There's a deeper issue here - do we want a precedent where someone who doesn't like the results of a piece of research can pursue the scientists responsible through the courts. Perhaps some reading of Russian 20th century history (around the time of Lysenko) may be appropriate?

Although I have to wonder . . .

is there any argument with the second law of thermodynamics here?

When faced with this kind of legal hostility cooperation is usually not going to help and in the case of this Cuccinelli's request is probably not even possible. Recall just what was requested. All it would take would be one email or document missing without explanation to level obstruction of justice charges or who knows what else. The list of email recipients Cuccinelli wished to see correspondance with did include people more than happy to see this witchhunt succeed. If they provide a message that Mann misses for what ever reason, there you go.

Also, the motives of this request are so obvious that accepting it on principle would be a terrible precedent.

Assuming there must be something to hide because of a decision not to cooperate is like believing that innocent people never need lawyers.

UVA's lawyers would do well to investigate the pertinent statutes against 'abuse of prosecution' in the state of Virginia. Legal remedies include censure of offending public law officers. A public official cannot "...harass and make multiple overlapping investigations for same alleged offense including but not limited to production of documents..."

By P.C.Chapman (not verified) on 21 Oct 2010 #permalink

Interesting, but isn't this a little difficult when the offending ublic law officer is the Attorney General himself? Would it not be the AG's perogative to pursue such a censure?

I do, though, hope they are considering such proactive measures as well.

I know Cucinelli is being an insufferable troll about this, but part of me wonders if court is exactly where we want these quacks.

Remember the Dover, PA evolution case? The Intelligent Designers got their day in court and got routed.

As a two-time grad of UVA I can assure you that Cuccinelli will not get his way on this or anything else in dealing with the University. He should be disbarred and my hope is that he will be. A recall petition is being prepared but I don't know the status of it yet. Will follow up.

By G. Thomas Farmer (not verified) on 22 Oct 2010 #permalink

And what would have been the appropriate way to pre-empt this from the beginning?
You get three guesses.

Guess one:

Not using point-centered means in the principle components analysis of MBH 99 "hockey stick" study?

Uh, nope.
Nothing to do with analysis methods.


Immediate full disclosure of data and methods? (that counts as one guess.)

Ding ding ding

That's one of two possible solutions.
Skip, you make me so proud!

The University could certainly have prevented financial losses and problems with the government by doing that, but the fact remains that the court has found there to have been no reason why his studies were fraudulent. If the charges were politically or philosophically motivated, as they appear to have been, then thank you, UVA, for standing up to a blatant attack on humanity's right to informed decisions by an ignorant attorney.

Well Rob,
It appears you're in agreement with solution number one.
What is solution number two?

Solution number two,Paulin,is to ignore you. Obsession with MBH98 is a sign of an unhealthy mind.

The fact that we have the best democracy money can buy is a longer standing problem with much greater implications than those in Dr Mann's email stream.

"the best democracy money can buy"

I love the irony in that statement.

I see it this way, if Cuccinelli has grounds for his requests then the UVA should give him what he wants, on the other hand if his requests are not supported by say reasonable doubt then he should back off.

For those that say "innocence has no need to hide....etc" just remember that the next time your government takes that little bit more privacy away from you, warrantless wire taps, hidden secrurity cameras on every corner, internet filtering, selling of private info for fraud etc

Does anyone know if Cuccinelli will be liable for UVA's legal bills should he lose the appeal? Or will the university have to sue him to recoup the costs?

By DreamQuestor (not verified) on 05 Nov 2010 #permalink