By Chris Horner, ATI
Michael Mann made his way back to the Commonwealth of Virginia yesterday to watch his U.S. lawyer reprise the dark conspiracy theories previously weaved throughout his Canadian lawsuit against Tim Ball for repeating the old joke about “belong[ing] in the State Pen, not Penn State”.
The forum was a hearing in the American Tradition Institute’s Freedom of Information Act (VA) case against the University of Virginia (UVa) for certain records sent to or from Mann accounts while he was at UVa. That period is when the chatter about deleting records to circumvent FOI laws and other wagon-circling took place among the self-appointed “Hockey Team”.
That sort of paranoia sounded even worse in the spoken word that it reads in a brief. The judge gave an almost imperceptible shake of his head when my colleague David Schnare wondered aloud, when his turn came, about responding to all of the ad hominem. Enough already, this gesture seemed to say.
The Court allowed Mann to enter as an intervenor in this dispute, from the bench and without explanation. So there’s little we can offer there except that, when all is considered, this does provide the Court with the path of fewest problems (though hardly none, if Mann’s record in pleadings and argument is any basis to judge by; possibly some allies will try and delay matters yet again when we next proceed).
Given Mann’s argument was almost entirely limited to a vast right-wing conspiracy if one involving some names I’d never even heard of and in an apparently studious avoidance of the applicable law, we can only surmise the rationale for this move was grounded in equities found elsewhere than that curious display.
ATI opposed Mann’s motion to intervene simply because he offered no principled basis to intervene. We will appeal therefore with an eye toward settling the question as to what rights, or other considerations, justify a faculty member’s intervention in a FOIA case. For now we welcome Mann to this case to defend the content of his emails in a public forum. Presumably, just more conspiracy theorizing won’t suffice anymore.
We then proceeded to UVa’s effort to reopen the Protective Order, seeking to substitute themselves for us as the party reviewing and selecting exemplar emails from the cache they now admit to possessing. That it would be reopened was pro forma after Mann was deemed to have interests at stake, if what these interests are was left unstated.
The Court noted the distrust between the parties, particularly ours of UVa after all of what they have done, and so did not allow UVA to assume that role. This was despite that in advance they and Mann had agreed to jointly stipulate to this (his lawyer’s rather odd, earlier argument notwithstanding, see below).
But, as we argued, UVa’s utterly terrible record on this matter does not inspire confidence that a fair review and representative sample is to be had from them. Their ill-fit for the newly adopted pose of independent arbiter is somewhat betrayed by their legal bills fighting the AG’s Civil Investigative Demand now heading toward a million dollars. Then there is the enormous pressure from their faculty and pressure groups — which they finally copped to, after arguing previously in pleadings that this was all in our heads. Speaking of its track record.
And, finally, UVa has essentially the same interest as Mann at stake and is no more a suitable arbiter than Mann himself (per Mann, that’s “embarrassment”). To say UVa is aggressively focused on limiting the damage of what occurred in its program, with still not a finger toward self-policing lifted to date, is also something of an understatement.
So we have until a scheduled December 20 hearing to agree to a third party reviewer, cost and methodology. If we cannot agree the court will impose a process.
Toward that end, Mann’s attorney informed the Court that, well, Mann is the only person on the planet capable of understanding the content and meaning of emails he sent and received, thereby not only raising questions about his correspondents but making his future objections as to reviewers something less than entirely relevant or credible.
Cost is to be split at worst three ways, one presumes. Mann is surely going to be raising money for this. So, we won’t be shy, either. We can’t match the cool million the University of Virginia is pouring into their effort to make the embarrassment the revelations in ClimateGate emails to and from Mann’s UVa accounts has caused them go away. But every little bit helps.