Deniers Lose. Freedom of Thought Wins. The Koch Brothers Have no Right to Read Your Mail.
September 17, 2012
A rare-as-hens-teeth-these-days win for freedom of thought, science, truth, justice and the American way.
Deniers 0, Smart people, 1. For this week anyway – but then its only monday.
Breaking: A victory for science! ATI loses ATI/UVa FOIA case. Judge issues final order. Affirms the university’s right to withhold scholarly communications and finds that the documents & personal emails of mine demanded by ATI were indeed protected as the university had contended.
I am gratified for the hard work and vigorous defense provided by the university to protect scholarly communications and raw materials of scholarship. Fortunately Virginia has a strong exemption in the public records act that protects research and scholarly endeavors. The judge ruled that the exemption under Virginia’s public records protecting information in furtherance of research on scientific and scholarly issues applies to faculty communications in furtherance of their work.
This finding is a potentially important precedent, as ATI and other industry-backed front groups continue to press their attacks on climate scientists through the abuse of public records and FOIA laws and the issuing of frivolous and vexatious demands for internal scholarly deliberations and personal correspondences.
The ATI/UVa case grinds on. The latest filings are (finally) substantive on the main point at issue – what is and what is not exempt under Virginia’s FOIA, though you wouldn’t know that from reading the ATI press release. Nor would you gather that the main reason for why this is all taking so long is because of ATI’s cowboy lawyering and the filing of irrelevant (and dismissed) motions that sought to do various end runs around the main issue (such as demanding the documents in question under discovery, then seeking to withdraw the motion, then filing another discovery request etc.). The litany of misrepresentation and time-wasting tactics is outlined clearly in the UVa response (part I,part II) (pages 2-7). More interesting are the actual arguments in UVa’s response regarding exemptions to the FOIA release, of which there are 123 in the Virginia statute. It turns out that 18 states allow relatively broad exemptions similar to the Va law, which states that the following need not be released:
Data, records or information of a proprietary nature produced or collected by or for faculty or staff of public institutions of higher education,… in the conduct of or as a result of study or research on … scientific .. or scholarly issues,… where such data, records or information has not been publicly released, published, copyrighted or patented.
The other states with similar clauses include Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Vermont. (Notably Texas is not included).