Ken Cuccinelli's quest for climate change emails stopped

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Supreme Court halted Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli's demand for a former University of Virginia climate researcher's emails Friday, ruling that he lacked authority to subpoena the records.

The ruling is a victory for the university, researcher Michael Mann and higher education officials and faculty who claimed Cuccinelli's "civil investigative demand" threatened to chill academic freedom and scientific research.

Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic, said he is investigating whether Mann defrauded taxpayers by using manipulated data to obtain government grants. He has said academic freedom should not shield scientists and educators from investigations into whether they might have broken the law.

"From the beginning, we have said that we were simply trying to review documents that are unquestionably state property to determine whether or not fraud had been committed," Cuccinelli said in a statement. "Today, the court effectively held that state agencies do not have to provide state-owned property to state investigators looking into potential fraud involving government funds."

Chuck Rosenberg, the university's attorney, declined immediate comment and Mann did not immediately respond to an email.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy group, lauded the court's decision.

"Certainly, I do think that it's important for the university to be able to protect the privacy of its researchers and the ability of scientists to ask tough questions," said Michael Halpern, the organization's scientific integrity program manager. "This is a victory for science in Virginia."

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