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John O'Sullivan: Federal Law Defeats Academic Freedom in Global Warming Lawsuit
Wednesday, September 21st 2011, 8:35 AM EDT
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
Discredited Climategate global warming scientist, Michael Mann, fighting a court order to release his data, suffers new set back. Federal statutes on public access rights and state employment laws trump academic freedom.

Professor Michael Mann, a prominent climatology expert, made a last-minute plea to a Virginia court to bend the rules and help him keep his research data under lock and key. Suspicion grows that the latest concealment attempt is further proof of a conspiracy to hide the misuse of taxpayer grants.

However, as shown below, the astute application of federal statutes on privacy and exposure of the legal fallacy of ‘academic freedom,’ condemn Professor Mann to certain defeat.

If Mann’s hidden data, once exposed, is shown to be flawed it will not only discredit a cornerstone of global warming ‘science’ but will expose Mann to possible criminal charges for fraud over his hyped up man-made global warming claims.

Taxpayer Rights Under VFOIA Upheld by Court Order

Mann became famous worldwide as the creator of the UN’s global warming ‘hockey stick’ graph. He claimed it proves our modern climate is dangerously hotting up due to industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.

The Circuit Court of Prince William County, Va. had ordered on May 24, 2011 that Mann's former employer, the University of Virginia (UVa), must release all such data it holds on Mann within 90 days. In response, Mann has filed a last-minute legal challenge to keep his calculations hidden.

The university had already demanded money up front for the data release and was duly paid $4,000 but still did not provide any documents. Under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA) the Uva are legally bound to allow the public access to Mann's records.

The court order was granted in favor of three Virginia taxpayers including one state lawmaker and backed by the American Tradition Institute Environmental Law Center (ATI).

Mann’s Lawyers Give Away Sign of Desperation

Mann’s stubborn secrecy is adjudged as ill considered and damaging to his cause raising deep suspicions about the climate scientist's integrity.

There is also a fatal flaw in his latest submission: Mann’s lawyers fail to cite any documented evidence to prove his employment contract exempted him from Virginia's freedom of information laws.

Thus Mann's claim that his tree ring research (paid for by public funds) is his private property and thus exempt from the VFOIA is baseless in fact due to this omission.

A further giveaway that Mann’s legal arguments are weak is that his lawyers have resorted to citing an old case from way back in 1957 (Sweezy v New Hampshire); which to any skilled litigator suggests desperation.

In contrast, the ATI's case is built upon facts and modern precedents. A strategy backed up by an authoritative study on this issue conducted by Corey A. Ciocchetti for Duke University in 2001 (see: Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0026 and federal statutes).

Notwithstanding the above any reasonable concerns over privacy are simply assuaged by the court holding an ‘in camera’ review with the UVa and ATI attorneys who, between them, can readily ascertain what emails apply to the VFOIA and which are protected by privacy statutes.

Case Background Exposes History of Unethical Cover Up

History will show that Michael Mann was the architect of his own downfall. He became an icon of climate alarmism when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) plucked him from academic obscurity in 1998 when is PhD was “rushed through.” His infamous 'hockey stick' graph then featured prominently in the IPCC’s worldwide campaign strategy upon the release of their 2001 Report.

Environmental activists and policymakers routinely cited Mann’s graph as the ‘smoking gun’ affirming the theory of catastrophic man-made global warming until it was discredited by independent studies in 2003.

In 2003 statistics experts, Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick then exposed data anomalies in Mann’s calculations based on from tree ring temperature proxies indicating Mann had cherry-picked trees that suited his preconceptions. Such proxies, although problematic, are customarily applied to assist researchers gauge climate changes during the pre-thermometer era (circa 1850).

Doubts further festered about Mann’s ethics as he steadfastly refused either to correct his proven errors or submit his calculations for an open and in-depth review, a bizarre approach contrary to normal scientific practice.

‘Scientific Community’ Bankrolls Climate Data Suppression

Now, in his ‘Notice of Motion to Intervene’ (filed: September 2, 2011) Mann argues in 37 paragraphs why he feels entitled to conceal the truth of what went into the creation of his ‘hockey stick.'

Mann's legalese maintains that his emails contain “Data, records or information of a proprietary nature.” This makes farcical his doomsaying pleas that his research proves humans are dangerously warming the planet requiring the imposition of urgent tax raising remedies.

Mann's stonewalling is part of a mounting and expensive cover up which is already estimated to have cost UVa a whopping $500,000. But an ever-increasing pot of money is being made available to Mann’s lawyers, as revealed by the Penn. State professor’s latest court submission. In it Mann boasts a new “fundraising effort by the scientific community” to bankroll the climate doomsayer’s exploits (para. 13).

Paul Chesser, Executive Director of the American Tradition Institute (ATI) and senior counsel, Chris Horner, had already proved the the court's satisfaction that Mann's worj work is not of “proprietary nature” being that it was bought and paid for by Virginia taxpayers as part of Mann’s employment.

UVa Gave Mann No Contractual Exemption from Transparency Laws

Looking more closely at the legal details we see that Virginia law and the university’s policy bound all employees to Virginia’s freedom of information laws (VFOIA as part of their terms of employment. Mann was subjected to strict employee conditions regarding work documents as codified here. This gives Mann no wriggle room.

Moreover, federal laws pertaining to employer monitoring of electronic mail prove disclosure is contractually permitted when there is an agreement in advance between employer and employee. [1.]. In this instance, Virginia's FOIA laws were in place and are applicable to all public workers, including Mann.

Thus the burden is on Mann to prove to the court’s satisfaction that he was made an exception and contractually “opted out” of the university’s standard terms of employment. Mann’s attorneys, in his fresh submission, present no such evidence – a fatal omission to his case.

Myth of 'Academic Freedom' Unsupportable under Law

In Mann’s 11-page Memorandum of Law nowhere do his attorneys cite evidence that his employers granted Mann exemption to VFOIA. Absent such evidence, then the court must infer that there was no stipulation in his employment contract that any of Mann's work at UVa was exempted for being of a “proprietary nature.”

As Chesser explains, “ATI will present to the court how Dr. Mann understood, as an unambiguous and agreed-upon condition of his employment, that he had no expectation of privacy when he used UVA’s public email system.” [2.]

Mann clutches at the straw of ‘academic freedom' being that Mann and his colleagues were paid to provide evidence supportive of a certain public policy on climate. But 'academic freedoms' do not apply due to the circularity of Mann's argument; government climate policy is premised on taxpayer-funded climate research that Mann was paid to undertake and now he wishes to hide.

FOIA Laws Enshrined to Protect Interests of Taxpayers

Mann operates as a public servant in a state-funded university where his work was intended to guide policymakers. His assertions premised upon ‘academic freedom’ are thus baseless arrogant and elitist with the very concept of ‘academic freedom’ having been discredited by specialists in ducation law since 2000. [3.]

The Virginia courts are thus satisfied that Mann worked as a public servant in a state-funded university where his work was intended to guide policymakers. All claims that Mann’s work is exempt from disclosure due (1.) it is proprietary in nature, and (2.) is protected under ‘academic freedom’ are thus baseless and unavailing.

The rights of citizens to know what evidence actually exists for government policy on climate will therefore be ruled to hold precedence over Mann’s so-called academic freedom.

So why has Mann entered the fray this late pursuing such a weak strategy? Well, only Mann and his legal advisers can answer that. Despite the best efforts of deep-pocketed climate doomsayers, this lame ruse will merely draw out more pain for their beleaguered global warming cause.


[1.] DiLuzio, supra note 2, at 745 (citing 18 U.S.C. §2511 (1994)). See also Kopp, supra note 16, at 868-70 (referring to ECPA amended Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968).

[2.] Full details of ATI's robust case are set out online here.

[3.] Standler R.B., ‘Academic Freedom in the USA’ (2000), accessed online: September 20, 2011.

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