by Sean McLernon
Law360, New York (April 17, 2014, 5:53 PM ET) — The Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday blocked an environmental policy think tank from gaining access to email records from a former University of Virginia climate scientist, ruling that the academic’s personal correspondence relating to his research isn’t a matter of public record.
The American Tradition Institute argued that the university was required to turn over messages sent by former professor Michael Mann under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, but the state high court said the group’s interpretation of the exclusion for educational documents is too narrow.
The law allows universities to protect “information of a proprietary nature” produced by faculty and staff members. ATI claims that only documents that give the school a commercial competitive advantage can apply, but the appeals court said the law goes further than that.