Apparently not content to squander public money to challenge Obama's federal health care reform or the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, to say nothing of that quick flop "modesty" redesign of the Commonwealth's seal, Virginia's Attorney General continues on his quest to become a legend in his own mind by now investigating former UVA research scientist Michael Mann's academic e-mails concerning climate control under the pretense of fraud with regard to use of state grant funding! A much better inquiry would be to look into all the taxpayer revenue that "Kookinelli" is wasting in his pursuit of these obviously personal pet peeves in these hard economic times.
Per the 1967 US Supreme Court decision in Keyishian v. Board of Regents, the First Amendment "...does not tolerate laws that impose a pale of orthodoxy over the classroom..." That case must be in a book that has not made it onto Virginia's top lawyer's reading queue. Or maybe because that matter came on appeal from New York, he has rationalized that its dictates don't apply in this state. Scarier still, maybe he just doesn't care. Sure, there's that 2000 Federal Appeals Court decision holding that college professors have no First Amendment based academic freedom rights in job related teaching and scholarship, but that ruling is ten years old, regionally and judicially limited in scope, and it was never considered by the Supremes. As a matter of fact, in forty-three years, from our nation's highest court, nary a whisper again.
In 2007, a US District Court decision, now on appeal, denied First Amendment protection to professors who spoke out against hiring and promotion practices, excessive use of adjunct faculty to be specific. And the US Supreme Court did rule a year earlier in Garcetti v. Ceballos that the First Amendment doesn't shield public employees from retaliation for speaking out if that speech was part of their "official duties," in that case, whistleblowing. But internal e-mails traded in the normal course of academic discourse are a far cry, no pun intended, from vocal and/or extrainstitutional whining. And vigorous scholastic debate is not tantamount to an intrusion into employer personnel decisions. Those are distinctions with merit that "Kookinelli" will be hard pressed to overcome. But maybe that's not his point.
Maybe our "Almost Governor" just wants to have a chilling effect on any thought he finds disagreeable, and by threatening to, or bringing these frivolous lawsuits, he may somewhat achieve his purpose and accomplish that result. If his strategy works, it could be a return to McCarthyism for this state and equivalent to the 1950s Communist purges in this country or oppression under Communist rule elsewhere. "Kookinelli"'s Virginia would be the Dominion of the Old-fashioned, stuck in a time warp of only all that he deems worthwhile. Laissez-faire Virginie, ignoring that moniker aside, the Commonwealth theory is not embodied in our federal Constitution, and that James Madison railed against the retention of any state sovereignty in a national government as destructive. Apparently on Ken's bookshelf, historical tomes are collecting dust as well.
Since he is the Attorney General, it is important that he doesn't lead us into becoming the laughing stock of the nation, or even worse, into being an outlaw breakaway republic under his whimsical rule. In a political climate where residents of Louisiana are feeling ostracized and unloved by yet another Administration, but are still pleading the value in being part of US, there is irony in "Kookinelli"'s separatist stance. While throughout Virginia we're cutting library hours and slashing education funding, there's one budget we haven't looked at - his. Perhaps to stop the "Kookiness," we should. The State of the Union isn't perfect, but membership has its privileges, making it far better than going it alone.
Karen Ann DeLuca