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Virginia’s crusading attorney general faces a flashing stop sign in his pursuit of a leading climate scientist. On Friday, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, does not have the authority to demand records of e-mails or grant applications sent by the scientist, Michael E. Mann, who formerly taught at the university and is now a professor at Penn State.

Mr. Cuccinelli has sought since 2010 to force the University of Virginia to release documents for five grant applications made by Dr. Mann and all related e-mails between the professor, research assistants and other scientists, saying that he suspected that Dr. Mann used fraudulent climate data to secure grants.

A lower court denied the request, saying that Mr. Cuccinelli presented nothing to back up his accusation. The attorney general appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Dr. Mann has long been a target of climate change skeptics like Mr. Cuccinelli, in part because the professor is the author of influential research charting a marked rise in global temperatures since the beginning of the 20th century. Mr. Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican, argues that there is no persuasive evidence that human activity is warming the planet.

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