Virginia Supreme Court Halts Climate-Denier AG Witch Hunt
Right-Wing Allies Still Seeking Researcher’s Papers in Related Suit
Washington, DC — A major front in the legal harassment of one of the country’s top climate researchers may have come to an end thanks to a ruling by Virginia’s highest court, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The Virginia Supreme Court today held that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) could not seize documents related to the scientific work of Professor Michael Mann, an eminent paleo-climatologist.
Beginning in April 2010, Attorney General Cuccinelli filed subpoenas demanding that the University of Virginia produce documents related to Mann’s time there. The Attorney General was rebuffed by lower courts. On appeal the Supreme Court of Virginia unanimously ruled that Cuccinelli was reaching beyond his authority under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. A majority held that his appeal should be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning the matter could not be further litigated.
Professor Mann has been called the “Galileo of climate science.” Among this accomplishments is the now famous “hockey stick graph” depicting the rise in global temperatures. For climate deniers, Professor Mann is Public Enemy No. 1. He issued this statement today;
“I’m pleased that this particular episode is over for me and for the University of Virginia, to whom I am grateful for fighting to protect the interest of academic freedom. It is a shame that Mr. Cuccinelli wasted so much tax payer money and resources on a political witch hunt founded on lies, fabricated from stolen emails, and spread across the blogosphere by the industry-funded climate-denial machine. One would have hoped that the attacks against me and other scientists would have ended after the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and my own university, Penn State, each dismissed these claims as baseless following their own thorough investigations.”
“This is a classic case of a politician misusing his office and the law to advance his career,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Mr. Cuccinelli should reimburse the Commonwealth for the costs imposed on taxpayers by his legal antics out of his gubernatorial campaign funds.”
Prof. Mann’s legal saga is not over, however, as the American Tradition Institute, “a free-market think tank,” is seeking the same materials through a state public records lawsuit. In this matter, Prof. Mann has legally intervened to stop this group from rummaging through his files and correspondence. In this effort, he has received substantial support in defraying his legal fees from the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund which lets scientific colleagues and the public directly help climate scientists protect themselves and their work from industry-funded legal attacks. This fund is sponsored and operated by PEER.
“Unfortunately, our battle in Virginia still is not over since Mr. Cuccinelli’s political allies are attempting to obtain through Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act the very same documents at issue in the case just ended,” Prof. Mann added. “As I describe in my just published book ‘The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars’, these people are the pawns of powerful vested interests attempting to orchestrate an assault against the scientific community. Their goal is to protect their profits by delaying action to combat climate change.”