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Judge Quashes Subpoena of UVA Research Records 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the closing-the-climategate dept.
esocid writes "An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge has set aside a subpoena issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the University of Virginia seeking documents related to the work of climate scientist and former university professor Michael Mann. Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli's subpoena failed to state a 'reason to believe' that Mann had committed fraud. He also set aside the subpoena without prejudice, meaning Cuccinelli can rewrite it to better explain why he wants to investigate, but seemed skeptical about the underlying claim of fraud. The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005. 'The Court has read with care those pages and understands the controversy regarding Dr. Mann's work on the issue of global warming. However, it is not clear what he did was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia,' Peatross wrote. The ruling also limited Cuccinelli to asking about only one of the five grants issued, which was the only one using state funds."
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Judge Quashes Subpoena of UVA Research Records

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Monday August 30, 2010 @06:44PM (#33420940)
    Cuccinelli is trying to use professor Mann as a political piñata to further his career. I'd shit in my hat if I thought for one second Cuccinelli gave a rat's ass about science (except for how science affects the teaching of evolution in schools).

    If a climatologist is the biggest fish on Cuccinelli's radar then he needs to take a closer look at local problems that directly affect his constituents. I'm not saying global warming wouldn't directly affect his constituents ... just that trying to silence a scientist just because he doesn't agree with his findings shouldn't be a top priority for politicians (such as those in Cuccinelli's position).
  • by memyselfandeye (1849868) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:08PM (#33421144)

    I tend to agree. I'm a political junkie by nature, so take this with a grain of salt, but it seems to me that Judges do a good job of holding true to law. The big news going around about stem-cells has a lot of my peers -I work in a University- roiled, but let's face facts, if it's true that he ruled based on a 90s law that forbids stem cell research, then maybe it's time to change the law and not bend it? Same goes for this case, as it was for the big evolution case in PA where a conservative appointed judge ruled that evolution is a real scientific theory and intelligent design was a ploy to rename creationism and thus illigal to teach in public schools.

    2.5 cents.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:12PM (#33421172) Homepage

    He's abusing taxpayer money to fuel this religious right-wing witch hunt.

  • Re:Good (Score:1, Interesting)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Monday August 30, 2010 @07:48PM (#33421462) Journal

    This isn't even a prosecution yet. It's an investigation....

    And you have no clue if it's politicians bloviating with public resources or not until something is found or nothing is found. As the judge said, the argument could be made, it just wasn't on the warrant, to investigate the use of the one grant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:00PM (#33421578)

    The really scary part? In Virginia, the Attorney General usually has the inside track for his party's nomination for governor in the next election.

  • Re:Politics aside (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ironhandx (1762146) on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:05PM (#33421616)

    RTFA, it was not a FOIA request. That may have in fact been much more successful. It was a subpoena request for information based on trumped up(invalid) fraud charges. However a FOIA request would have been much less politically advantageous if it went through, which is all that this whole thing was really about, he wasn't looking for evidence he was looking to be able to smear the guys name with the fact that there may have been enough evidence against him to even start a full scale legally backed investigation.

    You should be thanking this judge for setting this idiot in his place and not allowing him to abuse the legal system and your tax dollars purely for his own political gain.

    It is also still left open for the guy to back up his trumped up fraud charges a little better and resubmit the subpoena request.

    Sorry if I'm less than sympathetic towards the guy but his entire career reeks of abuse of power to push nonsensical politically advantageous policies while largely ignoring bigger problems. Global warming and its existence isn't even on my top TEN list of things for politicians to be worrying about.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:06PM (#33421624) Journal

    Wow.. 99.99% of all research and 100% of all reputable research, that's amazing. Where can I find out more about these outrageously large or inflated values? Are you sure you aren't just suffering from selection bias or something? Perhaps the old saying that goes something like 80% of all percentages are made up on the spot?

    So arguing about who put the hole in the boat while your sinking seems to be counter productive.

    Ahh,, I get it now, you simply do not understand the argument. It's not about who put the hole in the boat, it's about where the whole is, how it was created which indicates a little about how can be plugged or if it even needs to be plugged, and if we are actually sinking or just taking on water. And no, just because you are standing in water doesn't mean you are taking on water in a boat. It could be water from the fresh water source or the piss running down you leg from being scared.

    In my speed boat, there is a plug at the very back of it that allows water to completely drain from it. There is also a bilge pump installed in two separate locations. This means that yes, the boat is designed to take on water and deal with it. But as long as you deal with it, you are not sinking. So the question becomes do you turn on one pump? Which one? Both pumps? Or neither pump and just open the drain plug while going full throttle. Or do you do nothing until it gets worse and the answer to those questions become more obvious.

    And of course, I have used all 5 of those answers at some point in time. If AGW and Global warming was as simple as you attempt to make it, it would be obvious to everyone, not just the believers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:11PM (#33421650)

    As a professor who has supplied documents on many open records request. If you've done nothing wrong, why fight it? I have never quibbled over giving documents or emails. I've given CD's with years of emails to fulfill requests. If y0u work for a state institution or on a government grant, they are public documents. The only thing I would fight would be FERPA protected data.

  • by Doomdark (136619) on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:19PM (#33421726) Homepage Journal
    Ahh,, I get it now, you simply do not understand the argument. It's not about who put the hole in the boat, it's about where the whole is, how it was created which indicates a little about how can be plugged or if it even needs to be plugged, and if we are actually sinking or just taking on water. And no, just because you are standing in water doesn't mean you are taking on water in a boat. It could be water from the fresh water source or the piss running down you leg from being scared.

    It could also be that despite all observations, measurements and calculations, earth could still be flat, and no more than 5000 years old.

    But it still makes more sense to base one's actions on more commonly held estimates for shape and age of said planet. And specifically regarding global warming, actions taken to reduce human co2 output are also good more generally since other local and global pollutants are reduced nicely by most actions. Burning non-renewable fossil fuels is also beneficial outside context of co2 emissions.

    Still, the most important thing that is missing from "non-believers" (quotes, because I don't consider this a matter of faith or beliefs as much as many others do) is just that there is lack of credible alternate theories. This is suspiciously similar to stances of creationists: the main focus is no denying the main credible scientific theory, pointing at found or alleged holes, instead of trying to come up with better explanation for observations. This is done at multiple levels, from arguing against existence of observe trends to arguing about whose fault is it anyway. And it also aligns with current conservative political views, which are focused likewise on "just say no" way of argumentation. This is why it is very tempting to lump all said groups into one basket.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:36PM (#33421878) Journal
    Then listen to this one [wsj.com]. It isn't like the science is settled (of course, some of it is). As he says,

    The notion that complex climate "catastrophes" are simply a matter of the response of a single number, GATA, to a single forcing, CO2 (or solar forcing for that matter), represents a gigantic step backward in the science of climate. Many disasters associated with warming are simply normal occurrences whose existence is falsely claimed to be evidence of warming. And all these examples involve phenomena that are dependent on the confluence of many factors.

    You don't have to present a false choice between the Discovery Institute and 'scientists.'

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 30, 2010 @08:48PM (#33421978)

    It is the opposite. Here is the scientific method:

    1. Characterization
    2. Hypothesis (a theoretical, hypothetical explanation)
    3. Prediction (logical deduction from the hypothesis)
    4. Experiment (test of all of the above)
    5. Conclusion (an objective conclusion based on #4)

    There is no "hide the decline" nor "boycott journals publishing the opposing view" nor "delete data requested through Freedom of Information Act" in the scientific method. In fact, the AGW theory failed at number 3. 1998 was the hottest year despite the rising population and therefore, the increase of the greenhouse gases. CO2 is a greenhouse gas - that's proven scientifically, but that does not mean it is the sole factor in the climate systems.

    Pro-science people should want to look at this objectively. We would want to be able to see the data, recreate the experiments, reaffirm or disprove the theory based on facts without political slandering. The fact that the proponents deleted the data to avoid FoIA request said a lot about the quality of the research and should put a doubt to the outcome and anything built over this suspect foundation is suspect as well. Not to mention the fact that the Mann-made hockey stick graph has been proven to be made up by Mann over and over.

  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:01PM (#33422080) Homepage

    There are a couple reasons not to. This wasn't an open records request. This was a subpoena. When that happens the University lawyers get involved and their first instinct is to not comply. It's usually a good instinct, because someone serving a subpoena has an agenda which is probably against the interests of the University. Second, the professor in question is no longer at the University that was subpoenaed. It's likely, if not certain that he took is research records with him. The University of Virginia probably only has accounting records for the grant in question, and (probably) backups of emails. Penn State, on the other hand, doesn't have much to fear from a Virginia prosecutor with delusions of grandeur.

    I don't have a problem with providing any information requested about my research, provided what is requested actually exists. But when it comes to my emails... show me the subpoena.

  • by zippthorne (748122) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:03PM (#33422084) Journal

    Ok, but then you have to propose things that actually will reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Banning nuclear power, and even LNG terminals really doesn't accomplish that goal.

    Hint, natural gas comes off the top of oil wells. If the oil companies don't capture it and sell it, then they burn it off, and the extra reliance on coal burning because of it doesn't help things any, either.

    Neither does Ethanol fuel help anyone but corn farmers.

    Similarly "Carbon Offsets" mostly don't.

    There is a raft of schemes and scams and wishful dreams out there that people are screaming, "We have to do something, and this is something, therefore we have to do this," that will ruin us if we fall for them.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday August 30, 2010 @09:09PM (#33422124) Journal
    Counter-proposals like what? That the receding sea ice is caused in large part by reduced cloud coverage? Or that the glacier retreats on Kilimanjaro are caused by deforestation? Or that a difference of a degree probably isn't enough to discern any trend from anyway? Just because you haven't looked for alternate explanations doesn't mean they aren't there.
  • by Hellsbells (231588) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @12:34AM (#33423390)

    Why?

    Can you access your local mayor's email account?
    Can you download the full schematics for the space shuttle?
    Why isn't your local police department's incident reporting system completely open source?

    I'm all for increased transparency, but there is no reason that all information from publicly funded work should be publicly available.

    Because:
    - Overheads. The costs of doing this would be huge.
    - A lot of publicly funded work is done by private companies, who might not want to release their work to their competitors.
    - Most people don't want every piece of work, every correspondance that they've ever done accessible by everyone for the rest of time.

    It is fair to see the final reports/papers/etc... produced by most government departments, and some information on how those results were obtained, which is pretty much what happens for most government funded scientific agencies.

  • by cbeaudry (706335) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @12:40AM (#33423426)

    Come across as anti-scientists?

    WTF for, because they dont agree with fuzzy conclusions, based on faulty computer models.
    Or because the dont agree with the tampered data?

    What is anti-science about ASKING FOR THE RESEARCH AND NOT THE RESULTS.

    Get your head out of your behind and smell the arrogance.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @12:47AM (#33423456) Journal

    It could also be that despite all observations, measurements and calculations, earth could still be flat, and no more than 5000 years old.

    It could be, but somehow I doubt it. Of course starting your comment off like this, I'm left wondering if your just another troll from the church of global warming.

    But it still makes more sense to base one's actions on more commonly held estimates for shape and age of said planet. And specifically regarding global warming, actions taken to reduce human co2 output are also good more generally since other local and global pollutants are reduced nicely by most actions. Burning non-renewable fossil fuels is also beneficial outside context of co2 emissions.

    Sure, if you want to do that, go right ahead. The problem people have which is also why they want more answers then what is being provided is when you take your initiative and not only force it onto them, but onto the manufacturers and suppliers they rely on to live their lives, which end up causing inflation of the prices of their products. In other words, we want more then a hippy saying It's the right thing to do man, just after taking another bong hit. You seriously can't even answer the question of if eliminating all man made Co2 production tomorrow would change anything. The best you can do is say you think it might or it sounds like a good idea.

    This is why we need to know what type of hole is in the boat, where it's located, and is killing ourselves the best way to fix it. And yes, if we ended all man made production of Co2 right now, people would die. Thankfully, no one is even remotely being serious about stopping all man made Co2 immediately which is something else to consider. If they aren't, then why not? I mean Kyoto wanted to freeze human causes of Co2 production in wealthy countries to 1990 levels but allow it to increase unregulated in poorer countries. This is why there has been a boom in China and India and certain South American countries- regulated countries sought to outsource their industries in order to meet their guidelines.

    Still, the most important thing that is missing from "non-believers" (quotes, because I don't consider this a matter of faith or beliefs as much as many others do) is just that there is lack of credible alternate theories. This is suspiciously similar to stances of creationists: the main focus is no denying the main credible scientific theory, pointing at found or alleged holes, instead of trying to come up with better explanation for observations. This is done at multiple levels, from arguing against existence of observe trends to arguing about whose fault is it anyway. And it also aligns with current conservative political views, which are focused likewise on "just say no" way of argumentation. This is why it is very tempting to lump all said groups into one basket.

    Creditable alternative theories to what? When most of the so called non-believers think there are problems with the records indicating the warming, some of which had been proven to be true, what is the alternative that is supposed to be presented other then the records aren't accurate? And to that note, they lost most of the early manipulations so verifying them is almost impossible without repeating every other study again based around new data. But then there are people who say it might be happening, but humans are insignificant or that the amount of increased Co2 is insignificant enough to cause the supposed warming. I mean after all, the Co2 claim is that less then .001% of the total GHG in the atmosphere shifting is going to end the world. I can see where an alternate theory might be possible there, but it seems that whenever someone attempts to toss one out, they are shouted down because of some oil job 20 years ago or because they are friends of someone else or whatever. Do you remember the weather channel babe who was suggesting

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @02:48AM (#33423832)
    When you hire an architect to design your house, you will get a copy of the plans. He will file the plans on your behalf (or give them to the builder to file on your behalf). They are suing the architect for the designs (and all designs he's ever done, completed or not, but that was struck down) when they already have the finished plans. The results include the results, the methodology to get it, the data, and such. If there's a problem, a peer review will find problems with the methodology, and the data should be replicable by others. Filing suit against him when there's no actual evidence of wrongdoing in the hopes they will find something that at least justifies the harassment, even if not enough for a conviction, is unlike anything they'll do to an architect. You don't sue the architect after he delivers the plans and the civil engineer signs off on the plans and claim, without any evidence at all, that the building will never stand and the architect should be prosecuted for manslaughter because someone could die in the unsafe building.
  • by ShakaUVM (157947) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @03:12AM (#33423922) Homepage Journal

    >>It's possible to disagree with AGW without being a denier, but such a person would be open to the possibility of it being accurate.

    Precisely. Aside from a few minor quibbles (though these quibbles often turn into long, pointless debates on /.), I have no real issues with AGW, though people try to paint me as one, because of various issues I have.

    My main problem is that the 'solutions' to AGW are almost universally bad. Either ridiculously overpriced, overintrusive, undereffective, unfair... and most often some mixture of all of these.

    Solutions tend to come from scientists who have never heard of Amdahl's Law, and focus ridiculously expensive solutions on rather thin slices of the CO2 pie, instead of cheaper solutions on larger slices of the pie. For example, we spend 10-20 cents more per gallon at the pump here in California for a special blend of gas that might shave a fraction of a percent of the total CO2 produced in America.

    By contrast, if we were to switch to all CO2-free power plants in our country (mainly nuclear) if we amortized cost over 10 years, we could break even on the costs without paying much more for electricity - and reduce our total CO2 emitted in our country by ~40%.

    This would meet every CO2 target for our country, and allow people to keep driving whatever CO2-emitting SUVs they want without impacting their daily life in the slightest. (This might sound unfair to the Nazi-greens that WANT to control what other people do, but tough shit.)

  • by david_thornley (598059) on Tuesday August 31, 2010 @01:27PM (#33427344)

    And this is something I don't understand. Why do people harp on a supposed financial advantage for showing that GW is happening? Most of the money in this fight is on the side of fossil fuel companies. Certainly if a scientist wanted to get more money, there would be some way of getting it from the anti-AGW interests. I'm tempted to get biblical myself - something about beams and motes in people's eyes.

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