Va. Supreme Court Denies Cuccinelli Access to Climate Scientist Emails

March 7, 2012

Virginia's Supreme Court on March 2, 2012, denied Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's demand that the University of Virginia give him documents authored by former U.Va. climate scientist Michael Mann.

The decision was hailed by U.Va. President Teresa Sullivan. The university had gone to court opposing Cuccinelli's request as an assault on academic freedom.

Cuccinelli (R), who avows himself a global warming skeptic, had sought grant applications by Mann and emails between Mann and other scientists. Mann is known as creator of the "hockey stick" graph showing a dramatic uptick in global mean surface temperature in recent decades.

After private emails stolen by an unknown person were published by climate-denial bloggers in November 2009, climate skeptics coined the term "Climategate" to imply that something improper had occurred and that therefore decades of peer-reviewed science was invalid. Mann, a major focus of their attention, was repeatedly investigated and repeatedly exonerated. He now teaches at Penn State University.

Cuccinelli had sought records from Mann's time at U.Va. under the "Civil Investigative Demand" procedure, which is similar to a subpoena. Cuccinelli claimed he was investigating the possibility that Mann might have violated the state's Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. A lower court had ruled that Cuccinelli had failed to present any evidence suggesting that any such fraud had occurred.