UVA Files Petition Opposing AG's Efforts to Obtain Records of Climate Science Professor

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
May 27, 2010 12:00 am

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ACLU and AAUP Asked School to Protect Academic Freedom by Fighting Release

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Charlottesville, VA — The University of Virginia today filed papers with the Albemarle County Circuit Court opposing attempts by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to obtain documents related to the research of former UVA professor Michael Mann, a global warming expert once employed by the school.

Cuccinelli is seeking a wide range of detailed records — including emails that Mann sent to and received from colleagues while at UVA — through a Criminal Investigative Demand under the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. Mann, who is now employed by Penn State University, received funding from the state of Virginia for some of his global warming research. Under Virginia law, the University must accede to Cuccinelli’s demand or ask a circuit court judge to determine if it is in accordance with the law.

After hearing that Cuccinelli had filed the demand and reading reports indicating that UVA was inclined to comply, the American Association of University Professors and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia urged college officials to exercise their right to oppose the demand by filing a petition in circuit court (Link to ACLU/AAUP letter).

In their letter, the AAUP and the ACLU suggested that no opposition from UVA would chill academic freedom in Virginia by signaling to college professors that their private communications could be made available to the Attorney General whenever they were sought.

“A principal mission of the university is to protect academic freedom, and the way to do that in this instance is to make sure the Attorney General’s demand for information is justified under the law,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “A court can now make that determination.”

“We were concerned that UVA might just roll over rather than take on the Attorney General,” added Willis. “We are pleased they decided to stand up for their professors, academic freedom and scientific inquiry.”

The petition filed today by the University of Virginia can be found online at: acluva.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/20100527UVACuccinelliFiling.pdf

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