The Virginia Supreme Court has rejected the American Tradition Institute’s demand for email correspondence between former University of Virginia climate scientist Michael Mann and his colleagues. In upholding a higher education research exclusion from freedom of information access in this case, the Court cited the potential for “harm to university-wide research efforts, damage to faculty recruitment and retention, undermining of faculty expectations of privacy and confidentiality, and impairment of free thought and expression.” This is the result we have advocated in this case for the past three years.
The Richmond [Virginia] Times Dispatch reported
RICHMOND — The Virginia Supreme Court today rejected a conservative group’s attempt to obtain a University of Virginia climate researcher’s emails.
The justices said retired Arlington Circuit Judge Paul Sheridan was right when he ruled that Michael Mann’s emails are proprietary records dealing with scholarly research and therefore are exempt from disclosure under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. The ruling ends the American Tradition Institute’s three-year court battle to obtain the emails. …
The Washington Post reported
Unpublished research by university scientists is exempt from the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled Thursday, rejecting an attempt by skeptics of global warming to view the work of a prominent climate researcher during his years at the University of Virginia.
The ruling is the latest turn in the FOIA request filed in 2011 by Del. Robert Marshall (R-Prince William) and the American Tradition Institute to obtain research and e-mails of former U-Va. profesor Michael Mann. …
In 2012, Circuit Judge Paul Sheridan sided with U-Va., saying that Mann’s work was exempt and that the FOIA exemption arose “from the concept of academic freedom and from the interest in protecting research.” Marshall and ATI appealed.
The Virginia Supreme Court ruling includes this:
“We reject ATI’s narrow construction of financial competitive advantage as a definition of ‘proprietary’ because it is not consistent with the General Assembly’s intent to protect public universities and colleges from being placed at a competitive disadvantage in relation to private universities and colleges. In the context of the higher education research exclusion, competitive disadvantage implicates not only financial injury, but also harm to university-wide research efforts, damage to faculty recruitment and retention, undermining of faculty expectations of privacy and confidentiality, and impairment of free thought and expression.”