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Virginia High Court Rejects Case Against Climatologist Michael Mann 420

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-to-go dept.
ananyo writes "The Virgina Supreme Court on Friday tossed out an investigation by the state's conservative attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, into Michael Mann, the former University of Virginia climatologist whose work on the now-famous hockey-stick graph has become a lightning rod for climate skeptics. 'In a dense and conflicted 26-page ruling (PDF) covering a century and a half of case law — including references to kings as well as modern "functional incongruities" that divided the judges themselves — Virginia’s high court ruled that the university is not a "person" and thus is not subject to Cuccinelli’s demands under the state’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.' The 'climategate' scientist has been cleared of wrongdoing by a number of investigations."
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Virginia High Court Rejects Case Against Climatologist Michael Mann

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  • personhood (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:31AM (#39230813) Homepage

    Interesting-- so corporations are persons, according to the Supreme court, but universities aren't, according to the Virginia court.

    • by KiahZero (610862)

      It's not that it's a university, it's that UVA is an agency of the Commonwealth.

    • by itsybitsy (149808) * on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:41AM (#39230867)

      "Interesting-- so corporations are persons, according to the Supreme court, but universities aren't, according to the Virginia court."

      The realty is that Corporations and Universities are abstract concepts that represent a group of people. Are they people? As much as Soylent Green is people.

    • by scorp1us (235526)

      This then means that anything the UVA does is public property, it cannot have intellectual property of its own, it cannot have copyright or patent rights.

      Way to throw the baby out with the bath water. Look at the lengths they go to to prevent the release of information. This is right up there with the ruling that criminals don't have to register their guns because that would violate their right against self-incrimination. Anytime you get conflict like this, there is an agenda forcing the ruling.

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        The agenda is the government doesn't like being sued. The government owns the courts. Nothing to see here.

    • Re:personhood (Score:5, Informative)

      by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @11:46AM (#39231289)

      UVa is an agency of the state of Virginia. It is not a corporation, it is a part of the government which means it can assert sovereign immunity.

    • Re:personhood (Score:4, Informative)

      by artor3 (1344997) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:13PM (#39232903)

      Just wait a few months for the SCOTUS to rule on Esther Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum (aka Shell). Based on what the conservative majority was saying during the hearings, it looks like they're getting ready to rule that corporations are not persons when it comes to suing them for human rights violations, thus making them immune to the law suits. They'll be able to commit whatever atrocities they want in the third world, and their victims' only recourse will be through the corrupt local courts.

      The case can be traced back to that scandal from the 90s where some Nigerian villagers were protesting Shell's destruction of their local environment, so Shell collaborated with a local junta to have them all murdered. Shell payed a settlement for that one, but they're working on having carte blanche for this sort of thing moving forward.

      But of course, they'll still be "persons" in the sense that lets them buy off politicians.

  • King's privilege (Score:4, Insightful)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday March 03, 2012 @10:49AM (#39230911) Homepage

    From the decision:

    ...a "person" is defined as "any natural person, corporation, firm, association, organization, partnership, limited liability company, business or trust."

    [...]

    Because UVA is indeed a public corporation, and the term "corporation" can be found in the definition of a "person" under FATA, Code 8.01-216.2, the circuit court ended its investigation at this juncture. We find that this conclusion ignored several significant reasons why "person" in Code 8.01-216.2 cannot properly be read to include agencies of the Commonwealth.

    [...]

    See, e.g., Whiteacre v. Rector, 70 Va. (29 Gratt.) 714, 716 (1878) ("It is old and familiar law . . . that where a statute is general, and any . . . interest is diverted or taken from the king, . . . the king shall not be bound unless the statute is made by express words or necessary implication to extend to him.")

    Government is above the law. All hail the king. Welcome to Braveheart.

  • by RogueWarrior65 (678876) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @11:17AM (#39231073)

    Clearly the court didn't want to pass judgement on the nature of the case (no pun intended) and instead chose to throw it out on an Angelina Jolie-ish thin concept.
    It also sets an interesting precedent. If, as the court claims, the university is not a person as a requirement for a legal claim on the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, then one could argue that no university should be allowed to get taxpayer funding because there can be no oversight.

  • by Shavano (2541114) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @11:26AM (#39231139)

    Wait, I'm confused. Corporations are persons that can be sued but universities aren't?

    • UVa is a state school, not a private entity. As such it enjoys sovereign immunity.

    • Re:Can't be sued? (Score:5, Informative)

      by J'raxis (248192) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @02:23PM (#39232531) Homepage

      The university is probably a "person" whenever it wants to be, but isn't whenever it wants to be.

      We're fighting a similar case in New Hampshire. A couple decades ago, the University of N.H. employed their legal "political subdivision" label in order to protect themselves against another party in a lawsuit. And the court duly recognized their status as a political subdivision of the State of New Hampshire.

      So recently a group of activists tried to challenge [freekeene.com] the UNH's firearms policy by pointing to N.H. RSA 159:26, which states that no political subdivision of New Hampshire can regulate firearms; only the Legislature may do so. The university of course tried to argue they're not a political subdivision.

      If the legal system here was even remotely non-corrupt, this would be a slam dunk. The principle employed here is called "collateral estoppel" in legal parlance. "You can't have it both ways" might be another way to describe it. Or "blatant hypocrisy."

      Guess which way the Superior Court ruled.

  • I concur. The university is not a person; it's a university. This fact seems to have escaped the complainants.

    If, as the court claims, the university is not a person as a requirement for a legal claim on the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, then one could argue that no university should be allowed to get taxpayer funding because there can be no oversight.

    This is nonsense. You can oversee a university just as you can oversee a person. It has nothing to do with the Act.

  • Read Republicans (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Enrique1218 (603187) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @11:38AM (#39231233) Journal

    When was the last time a Rebublican read a science book? First, carbon dioxide is a heat trapping gas. It absorbs infrared and converts to kinetic energy. This is the basis of IR spectroscopy. Alternatively, read about the planet Venus. Then, burning fossil fuels will dump carbon dioxide that has been fixed by living things over the last 500 million years. That is why they are called fossil. Putting that together, things are going to warm up if we keep burning the fuel. I dont need a Phd to figure that out

"If that makes any sense to you, you have a big problem." -- C. Durance, Computer Science 234

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