A state judge ruled today that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli did not give a sufficient reason when he tried to subpoena records regarding a climate researcher.
Cuccinelli, a Republican, said he wanted the records in order to investigate whether the researcher, Michael Mann, made false claims in connection with state grant funding. Cuccinelli is a skeptic of human causes of global warming, an area that Mann has studied at the University of Virginia and elsewhere. Mann is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.
In a six-page letter to the parties, Judge Paul Peatross Jr. wrote that the Attorney General’s Office failed to show that it had “reason to believe” that fraud occurred.
“In order for the Attorney General to have ‘reason to believe,’ he has to have some objective basis to issue a civil investigative demand, which the Court has power to review,” Peatross wrote. He added that Cuccinelli’s office must state specifically what it believes was “misleading, false or fraudulent” in Mann’s conduct.
Peatross wrote, however, that Cuccinelli’s office does have authority to investigate the handling of state grant money, so the attorney general could make another request with more detail.
A Cuccinelli spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A message left with a University of Virginia spokeswoman was not immediately returned. Chuck Rosenberg, a Hogan Lovells partner representing the university and a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, declined to comment.
UPDATE (1:44 p.m.): In a statement, Cuccinelli said he would issue a new request for information that conforms to Peatross' ruling. "We will also take time to fully examine the decision and all of the available options before deciding whether or not to also appeal aspects of the ruling," Cuccinelli said. He said he was pleased that the judge ruled in favor of his office having the authority to conduct its investigation.
UPDATE (4:33 p.m.): A spokeswoman at the University of Virginia released a statement saying officials there are also pleased with the ruling. "In reaching its conclusion, the court made several important findings: that the attorney general failed to sufficiently support any allegation that Dr. Mann engaged in fraudulent conduct; that academic freedom should inform the propriety of an inquiry into the conduct of University faculty; and that the scope of any future inquiries by the attorney general would have to be substantially more narrow than these" requests, the statement said.