I think it was Thomas Jefferson who first said ‘Laws are great, in theory, but…’
As his other project, the University of Virginia, gets further backed into a corner on the ‘Hockey Stick’ records it is spending upwards of a half a million dollars to keep from the public (even though the public paid for and has every right to them), we now see what Charlottesville radio host Joe Thomas of WCHV likes to note in this context as “UVA getting its Nixon on”. This time with a little help from its friends outraged that laws would be applied to the academic class:
Delegate David Toscano
211 East High Street
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Richmond -Senator A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), Senator J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax) and Delegate David Toscano (D-Charlottesville) will hold a press conference on Tuesday, January 18, 2011, in Senate Room 1 at the Capitol at 10:45 am to discuss their proposed legislation that repeals and limits the authority of the Attorney General to issue civil investigative demands.
Who: Senators McEachin, Petersen and Delegate Toscano
What: Press Conference on CID authority
Where: Senate Room 1
When: 10:45 am
Why: Limit the Attorney General’s authority to issue CIDs
At this press conference someone in the press might ask (hey, stop laughing) why the legislators in unanimously passing this law in both chambers forgot to exempt the academic class when passing the law. Or, did they just think it would be applied to people doing things they didn’t approve of?
As to why this troublesome law needs to be nipped in the bud, one need look no further than the transcript of oral argument on the matter August 20, 2010, in Albemarle County Circuit Court:
[Deputy Attorney General Wesley] RUSSELL: The scope was limited when the University called and said, look, we don’t have one e-mail server. They’re department by departments. To check the e-mails as [the CID is] phrased, we which would have to check literally every server on campus because we don’t have a central e-mail server.
Specify the departments, would you do that? So we did. And we specified I think eight specific departments. We said, limit your servers to that. If you have a central e-mail server, just run the search terms like anybody would in any discovery. But as far as going to individual departments, these are the only individual departments you have to go to.
And, of course, this comes out in this case with this history. Prior to Attorney General Cuccinelli even being sworn in, various FOIA requests were made for both Mr. Mann’s e-mails and e-mails of other scientists in the Climate Science Department. By the way, the University said to the responders that they raise no objection that the e-mails weren’t discoverable under FOIA or available under FOIA. In fact, for some they said, yes, we have them. Pay this fee and we’ll produce the e-mails to you [referring to a Greenpeace request for ‘skeptic’ Dr. Pat Michaels’ emails].
Regarding Dr. Mann, specifically, they said, we have no e-mails. And, in fact, in our papers we have attached the response of the University’s FOIA officer who said, we’ve had two IT engineers search exhaustively. There are no e-mails.
In my first conversation with [Associate UVA Counsel] Mr. Meek when a request for an extension was made I said, look, do you have any of these e-mails? I don’t want to give you a 60-day extension and then at the end of the 60 days you say, we never had anything anyway.
Mr. Meek represented to me that a backup e-mail server had been found, which may have responsive data on it.
If we are entitled to every inference, and I don’t mean to suggest in any way any ill play by the University, but at this stage based on their cases we’re entitled to every inference. You can draw a heck of an interesting inference from that one, that it took the CID to discover the backup e-mails.
So, now that — thanks to Mr. Cuccinelli’s CID — the University’s claim that the records do not exist is no longer operative, and having said they identified the particular server , we have moved under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, directing to them to conduct a very inexpensive, targeted search for those (already found) documents on that (already identified) server.
UVA’s last-minute response to us on Thursday rang similar to their responses to the AG’s office, in that they claimed more time to respond, on the basis of the request being broad (of course, they’ve already conducted the search…), and implying under the law’s requirements they are producing the records. Except their history is one of doing everything possible to not produce the records. Using this time to simply delay formally denying us the records is consistent with past UVA behavior, but not with the law. So, more on what is going on here as we proceed this week.