Virginia’s highest court has ruled that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli cannot force the University of Virginia to turn over records dealing with the work of a former university climate scientist.
In an opinion released this morning, the court ruled that the university cannot be the subject of a “civil investigative demand” issued by the state attorney general under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.
“We remain unconvinced that this statute of general applicability was intended to apply to corporate bodies that are arms of the Commonwealth,” Justice LeRoy Millette Jr. wrote in his opinion for the court.
Just three months after Cuccinelli took over as attorney general in 2010, his office began investigating “possible violations” of the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act by Mann. Cuccinelli issued a “civil investigative demand” – similar to a subpoena - seeking emails and other documents five research grants while Mann obtained at UVa, where the scientist worked from 1999 to 2005.
Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross ruled that summer that Cuccinelli failed to show why he suspects Mann may have violated the fraud statute. Peatross also ruled that Cuccinelli had to confine his inquiry to grants made with state funds. Four of the five grants Cuccinelli initially targeted were federally funded awards.