Thursday, March 01, 2012

Cuccinelli goes down, but likely escapes the ethics investigation he deserves

(A representative of The Future has an opinion about Cuccinelli's activities.)

Eli refers below to the Virginia Supreme Court shooting down the fishing expedition that the denialist VA Attorney General attempted against Mike Mann's entire history (background here, court opinion here).  The Court ruled on a narrow technical issue of whether Cucc could even go after the University of Virginia, ignoring the broader issue that the lower court found no basis was given for issuing the CID/subpoenas.  A Supreme Court dissenter disagreed on the technical issue and therefore went on to the substantive issue, and mostly agreed with the lower court.

It's that broader issue - no basis for issuing the CIDs to begin with - that constitutes Cuccinelli's ethical violation of using his state office to threaten supporters of opposing political viewpoints.  Without a definitive resolution of that issue, it becomes harder to make the claim to the state bar association that they need to discipline him.  They should anyway.

I argued earlier that they should at least try to make Cucc pay their attorney fees because his argument was frivolous. Also somewhat harder given the narrow ruling, but not impossible.

UPDATE:  per dbostrom's patient suggestion, one might consider donating to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.  This stuff is going to be happening a lot, and we'd rather have scientists worry about the science instead of fighting frivolous lawsuits.

Also going to recopy something I wrote in the comments:
The general American legal rule, for those who don't follow this stuff, is that the party who wins a lawsuit still has to pay its own attorney fees. It's easier for the winning party to get court costs of filing lawsuits covered by losers, but those are trivial compared to attorney fees. 
Various exceptions to rules apply, one is that if one party files a frivolous claim or does something unethical, then the other party may be able to recover attorney fees expended in response to the action.