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Win for Climate Science and the AAUP

Today the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected attempts by a “free market” legal foundation to use public records requests to compel faculty members to release emails related to their climate research.

In an amicus brief in support of the scientists, the AAUP had argued that Arizona statute creates an exemption to public release of records for academic research records, and that a general statutory exemption protecting records when in the best interests of the state, in particular the state’s interest in academic freedom, should have been considered. The appeals court agreed.

The decision came in the case Energy & Environment Legal Institute v. Arizona Board of Regents, which has a long history, with two lower court decisions, two appeals court decisions, and three AAUP amicus briefs. It started with a lawsuit filed by the institute, which is engaged in a campaign against climate science and has stated that it intends to “put false science on trial” and to “keep peppering universities around the country with similar requests under state open records laws.” The institute (formerly called the American Tradition Institute), previously sought similar records of University of Virginia faculty members Michael Mann and others, which the Virginia Supreme Court, with AAUP filing an amicus brief supporting the scientists, rebuffed.

The current case involves public records requests targeting two University of Arizona faculty members, Professors Malcolm Hughes and Jonathan Overpeck. The appeals court’s decision reverses a decision requiring release of the records and returns the case to the trial court.

Publication Date: 
Friday, September 15, 2017