Two roadblocks for Virginia attorney general

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September 14, 2011

By Lauren Rodgers

Virginia

Richmond, VA: Two major decisions came down to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli earlier this month. Neither was particularly good news for the first term Republican.

A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit brought by Cuccinelli that challenged the constitutionality of President Obama's health care bill. A panel of three Obama-appointed justices on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the commonwealth of Virginia lacked legal standing to sue. Judge Diana Motz, writing for the panel, argues that Virginia did not "demonstrate that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act invades its legally protected interest."[1]

Cuccinelli's response implied a larger issue at hand, expressing his disappointment "that the court did not even reach the merits on the key question of Virginia's lawsuit - whether Congress has a power never before recognized in American history; the power to force one citizen to purchase a good or service from another citizen."[2]

Just two days later, Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins granted the University of Virginia's request for a stay during a hearing in a controversial climate change study case. Cuccinelli is seeking access to documents that are part of a climate change study conducted by a former University of Virginia scientist, Michael Mann. Mann is under investigation for potential fraud in obtaining a $214,700 state grant in 2003 to support his research. The University of Virginia has refused to cooperate with the investigation by providing access to records, accusing the attorney general of fishing for evidence "in an attempt to police the debate over climate change."[3] Cuccinelli's office insists that the documents are property of the commonwealth, as they were produced by a state employee, and that they do not need to demonstrate evidence of fraud in order to investigate the documents. In her ruling granting a stay, Higgins stated she needed to wait for the Supreme Court of Virginia to rule on appeals by both parties on other aspects of the case before the case can continue in her court - a process that can take anywhere from nine to 12 months.[3]

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