Despite the Virginia Supreme Court, Michael Mann’s emails are seeing the light of day

In a rebuke to the Attorney General, and to the writers of Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, the Virginia Supreme Court dismissed, “with prejudice,” the AG’s civil investigative demand against the University of Virginia.

The aim of the CID was to compel the school to hand over a trove of emails created by former professor, and global warming proponent, Michael Mann. The AG wanted to look over the documents to see whether Mann had fudged his research in order to earn additional funding. A lower court had previously ruled against the AG.

In a press release, Cuccinelli’s office had this to say. The first paragraph neatly frames the giant pickle the state’s highest court has just dropped on the legal landscape:

The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled today that the University of Virginia and all other state agencies cannot be served with civil investigative demands which compel agencies to provide information for fraud investigations involving government funds.

So the court made fraud investigations much more difficult. Perhaps they feel underworked. The release goes on to say that the problem, in the court’s eyes, lies in the underlying statute:

Although the court recognized Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act contains “functional inconsistencies” on the issue, in its ruling, the court said that the university and other state agencies are not considered “persons” under the act. In doing so, the court explicitly recognized that in some instances in the act, the term “person” will “always [be] construed to include Commonwealth agencies” such as the University of Virginia, while in other instances, it will not.

In short: the General Assembly wrote a law that’s hardly worth the paper it’s printed on. Good job, fellas.

But all of this is yesterday’s news.

Michael Mann’s emails are seeing the light of day thanks to a FOIA suit filed by the American Tradition Institute and Del. Bob Marshall at roughly the same time Cuccinelli filed his original CID. ATI won it’s case against UVA last May. Details of those documents are slowing coming forth, something Mann and the University fought tooth and nail.

It will now be up to the court of public opinion to decide whether Mann played fast or loose with his data. And in some ways, crowd-sourcing Mann’s emails — which, you will recall, the University at one time said had been erased, then admitted still existed, then went to court to keep out of public view — could lead to far more interesting discoveries than any CID could have hoped to find.

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