Virginia's Attorney General is within his right to investigate grants from the Commonwealth of Virginia to faculty members of public universities, provided a sound "objective basis" for the investigations. Unfortunately for AG Ken Cuccinelli, his recent investigations of former climate scientist Michael Mann under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act failed to sufficiently explain suspicions of fraud in Mann's work.
In a six-page opinion released this morning in Albemarle County Circuit Court, Judge Paul M. Peatross writes that, while UVA is subject to future Civil Investigative Demands, Cuccinelli's two CIDs for information related to five grants awarded to Mann will be "set aside...in their entirety."
"What the Attorney General suspects that Dr. Mann did that was false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth is simply not stated," says Peatross. While the court "understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann's work on the issue of global warming," Peatross writes that "it is not clear what [Mann] did that was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia."
In his CIDs, filed in April, Cuccinelli sought information from UVA concerning five grants that funded climate research conducted by Mann while he was employed by the school. Mann was previously criticized by climate change skeptics following "Climategate," in which a group of climate scientists including Mann were alleged to have falsified data following the release of e-mail correspondence among researchers. Subsequent investigations into Mann's work cleared him of any wrongdoing.
The University of Virginia is currently working on a response to Peatross' ruling. Your response? Leave it below.
UPDATE: UVA's response, from the Office of Public Affairs, is copied below, in full:
Statement from the University of Virginia about Judge Peatross' opinion on the CIDs
"The University of Virginia is pleased and gratified by the court's decision to set aside the CIDs in their entirety.
"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 CIDs.
"The University's case was also bolstered by the strong support from its Board of Visitors, the University's faculty and the many individuals and groups around the country who let their voices be heard on this issue."