Virginia Supreme Court Rejects Subpoenas of Climate Scientists’ Emails
Statement by Michael Halpern, Union Of Concerned Scientists
Today, the Virginia Supreme Court rejected Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s Civil Investigative Demands (CID) — essentially subpoenas — that would have required the University of Virginia (UVA) to turn over emails and other private correspondence among former university climate scientist Michael Mann and dozens of his colleagues.
Since April 2010, Cuccinelli, who does not accept climate change science, has repeatedly attempted to use his power as attorney general to access the scientists’ correspondence – including emails, research drafts and even handwritten notes — through the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.
Today’s decision follows a circuit court judge’s motion in August 2010 to set aside Cuccinelli’s request. The circuit court judge ruled that the attorney general had failed to provide any evidence of wrongdoing by Mann or any other climate scientist. Several independent investigations have cleared Mann of any research misconduct, and Mann’s data and methods are publicly available.
Below is a statement from Michael Halpern, program manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Scientific Integrity Program:
“We applaud the high court for reaffirming that Mr. Cuccinelli didn’t have a legal leg to stand on in his pursuit of Mann’s and other scientists’ private correspondence. The university should be commended for its courage in standing up to the attorney general to ensure Virginia will remain a safe place for scientific research, even when elected officials don’t like the results.
“Academic institutions have the responsibility to protect their faculty’s ability to discover new things about our world without fearing harassment. Nobody should expect the rough drafts of their work to be subject to the same level of scrutiny as their published research.
“Now, it’s time for leaders in Virginia to move on. The attorney general’s fishing expedition represents a failure to govern. For two years, the attorney general has joined a small but vocal minority in a pointless and costly investigation that has done nothing but distract Virginia from the real challenge: mitigating and adapting to climate change.”