Monday, August 30, 2010

Cuccinelli Rebuffed: Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. Rules for UVA

UPDATE: "A federal judge puts a damper on Mr. Cuccinelli's U-Va. witch hunt"---Washington Post (8-31-10)

"[T]he judge seemed skeptical of Cuccinelli's underlying claim about Mann, noting that Cuccinelli's deputy maintained in a court hearing that the nature of Mann's fraud was described in subsequent court papers in the case..."The Court has read with care those pages and understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann's work on the issue of global warming. However, it is not clear what he did was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia," Peatross wrote."---Washington Post (8-30-10)

The Washington Post (8-30-10) has published an article titled "Judge quashes Cuccinelli subpoena of U-Va. records":

An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge has set aside a subpoena issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the University of Virginia seeking documents related to the work of climate scientist and former university professor Michael Mann.

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena failed to state a "reason to believe" that Mann had committed fraud.

The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained that he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005.

According to Peatross, the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, under which the civil investigative demand was issued, requires that the attorney general include an "objective basis" to believe that fraud has been committed. Peatross indicates that the attorney general must state the reason so that it can be reviewed by a court, which Cuccinelli failed to do.

Peatross set the subpoena aside without prejudice, meaning Cuccinelli could give the subpoena another try by rewriting the civil demand to better explain the conduct he wishes to investigate. But the judge seemed skeptical of Cuccinelli's underlying claim about Mann, noting that Cuccinelli's deputy maintained in a court hearing that the nature of Mann's fraud was described in subsequent court papers in the case.

"The Court has read with care those pages and understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann's work on the issue of global warming. However, it is not clear what he did was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia," Peatross wrote.

Additionally, the judge said Cuccinelli could only ask about one of five grants issued to Mann that the attorney general has been seeking to investigate. That's because the other four involved the use of federal, not state, funds.

In a statement, Cuccinelli said he will take the judge's ruling into account and rewrite the civil investigative demand. Spokesman Brian Gottstein said Cuccinelli is also examining the ruling to decide whether to appeal.

"While this was not an outright ruling in our favor, I am pleased that the judge has agreed with my office on several key legal points and has given us a framework for issuing a new civil investigative demand to get the information necessary to continue our investigation into whether or not fraud has been committed against the commonwealth," he said.

Mann, meanwhile, said he was pleased with the judge's ruling.

"I'm very pleased that the judge has ruled in our favor," he said in a statement. "It is a victory not just for me and the university, but for all scientists who live in fear that they may be subject to a politically-motivated witch hunt when their research findings prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests.

"I'm looking forward now to trying to get back full time to the things I really care about: doing research and extending the forefront of our scientific understanding of the science of climate and climate change, teaching and advising students and postdoctoral scholars, and doing the best I can to communicate to the public important scientific findings," he said.

A spokeswoman for the University of Virginia said a statement from the university would be forthcoming.

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