After a day-long hearing yesterday in a Virginia courtroom, a judge granted former University of Virginia climatology professor Michael Mann's motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed against the school by a global-warming denial group that's seeking his emails.

As a Facing South investigation revealed earlier this week, the group that brought the lawsuit -- the American Tradition Institute -- has close ties to fossil-fuel industry interests. ATI has been targeting Mann (in photo), now at Penn State, and other leading climate scientists in an effort to discredit their work.

"I'm very pleased by the judge's ruling," Mann told Facing South. "We scientists can't just sit idly by while industry front groups like ATI abuse open records laws to harass and intimidate scientists whose findings they find inconvenient."

Mann sought to intervene in the suit in order to protect his privacy interests, which he did not believe would be adequately protected by the other parties.

ATI Executive Director Paul Chesser lashed out at the ruling in a statement, saying the judge "offer[ed] no specific reason for his decision." It also criticized the case made by Mann's attorney, Peter Fontaine, calling it "an invective-laden argument lacking in any principled or cogent reference to the law."

But ATI went on to welcome Mann to the case:

Now he will have to defend his email content before a neutral court and offer more than slurs and innuendo to support his contention that he can hide his behavior and his emails from the public who paid for them in the first place.

Fontaine shrugged off ATI's criticism. "We made a compelling case this is a personal vendetta against Mike Mann," he said.

Prince William County Court Judge Gaylord Finch also granted a motion from U.Va. to reconsider its earlier decision to let ATI have access to the emails before they were released to the public. The previous agreement negotiated by U.Va. and ATI allowed ATI attorneys to review Mann's emails and select examples to use in later arguments.

Finch ordered the parties to the suit -- ATI, U.Va. and Mann -- to come up with an independent third party to review the emails. They have until Dec. 20 to do so; if they cannot reach an agreement on a reviewer by then, the court will assign one.

(Photo of Michael Mann by Greg Grieco via Wikipedia.)