UVA Fights Back Against Cuccinelli

By Chris Mooney | May 27, 2010 2:35 pm

While I don’t have anything to link to yet, I’ve learned that the University of Virginia has responded in court to Ken Cuccinelli’s abusive legal move, opposing his discovery attempt on academic freedom grounds. Bravo! I hope to update this post with a link to the legal document as soon as I can.

Update: A news report on this latest development is here. The UVA legal filing is here.


Comments (17)

  1. SLC
  2. SLC

    Here’s a money quote from the Union of Concerned Scientists article.

    “Cuccinelli is disregarding Virginia scientists’ right to do their work free from political interference. He is sending a message that he doesn’t want scientists conducting research in areas that conflict with his personal beliefs. It appears he is more interested in scoring political points by attacking climate scientists than in upholding Virginia’s reputation as a welcoming place for scientists to work. Virginians should be asking tough questions about his real agenda.”

  3. Sean McCorkle

    The legal finding is a great read – opens up with a wonderful Jefferson quote about his school.

    BTW Chris, thanks for all the updates on this important story. I for one very much appreciate them. SLC: the UCS timeline at that link is great too.

  4. Sean McCorkle

    Academic freedom grants immunity from the law?

    Academic freedom grants immunity from despots who want to silence voices. The “Grounds for Relief” section of the petition is quite clear about there being no basis for FATA violation (p7 #2)

    The purging of colleges and universities of politically inconvenient faculty and students is a standard practice during government coups worldwide. UVa’s courageous response against the Virginia DA’s baseless action will help ensure such a thing will not occur in these United States. It is a stance both fitting and proper for a university established by Thomas Jefferson.

  5. Brian Too

    @4. Nullius in Verba,

    What law has been broken? None (there has been no finding of guilt in a court of law). What charges are in play? None. What academic or ethical breach has been committed? None, an academic review has cleared Mann.

    Cuccinelli is exploiting the publicity and trying to appeal to a certain group of voters. It’s abuse of process, abuse of office, and abuse of power, plain and simple.

  6. Rob P.

    How about a permanent site ban on “Nullius” on the basis of defamation of character? Moderators???

  7. Chris Mooney

    to # 6 and nullius — that comment was across the line and has been deleted. this is a warning, not a permanent ban

  8. Nullius in Verba

    As you choose.

    But I would at least like others to know that I’m not allowed to reply.

  9. Deech56

    This is great news.

  10. Deech56

    Via Eli Rabbett (and CapitalClimate), see Terry Wolfe’s comment (and the blog post in which the comment appeared).

  11. Sean McCorkle

    Also, there’s a nice comment from Mann about Jefferson connection to climate science at PhysicsToday:

  12. LRU

    Thank you for the link to the legal filing. I found it very interesting.

    I’m a little confused on the law and technology aspect of the CID and how it is referred to in the filing. I’m hoping someone could point me in the right direction for answers.

    It appears the ‘climategate’ e-mails were cited as the basis for the CID. It is clear, however, these e-mails were wrongfully and illegally stolen. So, I’m wondering:

    1) Are illegally obtained hacked e-mails considered legitimate enough to base a CID on? I’m inclined to think they would fall under evidentiary exclusionary rules, so I’m a little confused.

    2) Also, if case law does not support the use of hacked evidence, are the evidentiary standards for CIDs lower than those for ordinary cases?

    I’m just a touch worried about the implications are with regards to privacy for corporate entities, and more importantly, for individuals. If courts begin to legitimize and accept stolen information, it would open the door to hacking as legitimate enterprises and this could seriously move issues of privacy in a really ugly direction. This case especially troubles me because a governmental agency seems to be leading the charge towards legitimizing illegal behaviors. I just hope this case doesn’t open a Pandora’s box.

  13. Nullius in Verba


    “It is clear, however, these e-mails were wrongfully and illegally stolen.”

    The British police have stated that they do not yet know whether they were stolen or not, and have generally refused to comment on that. One theory is that they were compiled in response to a FOIA request, and then when the university decided not to comply, they were leaked by an insider. The investigation continues.

    “Are illegally obtained hacked e-mails considered legitimate enough to base a CID on? I’m inclined to think they would fall under evidentiary exclusionary rules, so I’m a little confused.”

    Illegally obtained material is only inadmissible in court if it was government officials who committed the crime to obtain the evidence. Here’s a link to the relevant case law.

    However, the CID is not prosecution for a crime, it is part of an investigation to find out whether a crime has taken place. The requirement is only that the AG must have “reasonable grounds to believe”, which is less than probable cause, and does not have to consist of prosecution-quality evidence.

    There are analogies to other situations, such as plea bargaining, police informants, and forensics where examination of the consequences of crimes are admissible as evidence. It’s only crimes by law enforcement to obtain the evidence that are excluded. Pandora’s box was opened many years ago.

  14. ChrisD

    @Nullius 14

    “it is part of an investigation to find out whether a crime has taken place.”

    Except that four of the five grants were federal grants, over which Cuccinelli has no jurisdiction. The one state grant was in 2001, which was before the statute that Cuccinelli is abusing was on the books.

    Furthermore, UVa says that Cuccinelli has failed to spell out the nature of the alleged conduct–something that the law requires him to do. Certainly the CID has nothing about this and, if he’s spelled out this information anywhere else, I can’t find it.

    This is political grandstanding, pure and simple. You know it, I know it, everyone knows it.

  15. LRU


    Ah, how interesting! Thank you for for finding BURDEAU v. MCDOWELL, 256 U.S. 465 (1921). It appears I agree with Justices Brandeis and Holmes but not the the majority. I find the ruling counter-intuitive to say the least.

    As for my comment about the climategate e-mails being unlawfully obtained, I based my information from news sources and from the filing. I was not aware this was a point of contention. Thank you for informing me otherwise.

    I appreciate your assistance in helping me clear my confusion. I’ll be following trends in law and technology very closely. If Pandora’s box is already open, I’m keen to see how it develops and how it will be challenged in the future. I think privacy and information will be hotly contested issues in the near future.

  16. Nullius in Verba


    “Except that four of the five grants were federal grants, over which Cuccinelli has no jurisdiction.”

    I believe I’ve already said that, on a previous occasion.

    “The problem is that this particular investigation isn’t going to get to the bottom of those, because it’s out of the AG’s jurisdiction, and courts of law aren’t generally equipped to decide such matters anyway.”


    You’re welcome.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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