Today a Circuit Court Judge for the City of Charlottesville rejected the position of the Attorney General seeking to subpoena via Civil Investigative Demand certain documents generated by Professor Michael Mann as a potential fraud against the taxpayers of Virginia.
Professor Mann is a leading proponet of the scientific theory of “global warming” and his views are controversial in that respect. He formerly taught at the University of Virginia, where he sought state and Federal grants to further his research. For reasons that were not clearly articulated (but appear to revolve around the idea that “global warming” is an inherently false theory), the AG served five separate Civil Investigative Demands on the University to obtain records of Mr. Mann’s research and communications.
The Court made several important rulings. First, it found that the AG does not have “unbridled discretion” to subpoena state agencies or universities anytime he thinks a fraud has been committed. Second, it found that the AG simply failed to articulate what Professor Mann did that was “misleading, false or fraudulent” in seeking research grants. Third, it found that the AG lacks the authority to prosecute professors who seek out Federal grants.
At the end, the Court did find that universities are corporations and thus subject to Civil Investigative Demands, if they are properly tailored to meet the above restrictions. For this reason, the AG will be allowed to redraft two of the Demands — regarding state grants — to fit within the confines of the statute by seeking materials produced after 2003.
Frankly, I don’t see how a professor’s academic research could ever be part of a “false claims” investigation, as such procedures are open to rampant subjectivity — witness the foregoing fandango.
The AG’s power here needs to be curtailed. Expect such legislation for the 2011 session.