The University of Virginia filed a brief yesterday in Albemarle County Circuit Court asking a judge to set aside Cuccinelli’s request for documents on five grants relating to global-warming research by climate scientist Michael Mann, formerly of UVA.
Cuccinelli said he is investigating the possibility that Mann defrauded Virginia taxpayers when he sought four federal research grants and one state grant totaling $466,000 while working at the university between 1999 and 2005, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported.
Yesterday's filing is the latest volley between the university and Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic. His office will respond to Virginia's brief in two weeks. A judge has set a hearing for August.
The Virginia brief argues the scope of information requested by Cuccinelli is “extremely broad,” seeking virtually all of Mann’s academic and scientific research data and communication over a period of more than 10 years.
In fact, the request is so broad it bears no relevance to the investigation, the brief argues.
Lawyers for the university also argue in the brief that since four of the grants for which Cuccinelli seeks information were received from the federal government, the grants would not be covered by the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, the statute Cuccinelli used to issue the subpoena, the Washington Post reported.
And further, Mann, who now works at Penn State University, received the fifth grant before the fraud statute was enacted in 2003.
Cuccinelli has said his fraud suspicion is linked to e-mails that were leaked from a British university in which scientists discussed a "statistical trick" used by Mann in the course of his research. Mann and others have said the e-mail was taken out of context. The university's lawyers point to several previous investigations of those e-mails that concluded that Mann did not commit fraud.
It looks increasingly probable that the Albemarle Circuit Court judge will be tasked with sorting through the claims and counterclaims about global warming research, the Post reported.
Virginia accuses Cuccinelli of pursuing an ideological assault on Mann’s conclusion that the earth is warming.
At an appearance Friday in Lynchburg, Cuccinelli said his office is “looking at whether taxpayer dollars were used at a state institution for what the taxpayers were told that money would be used for, or was it used for another purpose,” according to the News & Advance.
Cuccinelli's trying to protect taxpayers.
By the way, the lawyers representing the university are from a large D.C. law firm, according to the Post. They were engaged after Cuccinelli gave the school permission to hire outside counsel to fight this battle.