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Blogger Subpoenaed for Criticizing Trial Lawyers

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the lookin-for-a-free-ride dept.

The Courts 500

Cutie Pi writes "Katherine Seidel, mother of an autistic child and an avid blogger has been subpoenaed for her "family's bank records, tax returns, autism-related medical and educational records, and every communication concerning all of the issues to which [she] has devoted [her] attention and energy in recent years." The lawyer in question is representing a mother who is suing Bayer for $20M with the claim that mercury in their vaccines caused her child's autism. In her blog Seidel has spoken out against lawyers trying to cash in on thimerosal lawsuits, noting that the thimerosal-autism link has been debunked in several studies. But Seidel herself has had no direct involvement in the lawsuit."

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I nothing Sacred these days? (-1, Troll)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039826)

Oh I guess Lawyers are, my bad, nevermind.

regarding your topic title (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23039946)

I believe that the same lawyer subpoenaed the key between "a" & "d" on your keyboard.

Re:regarding your topic title (0, Flamebait)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040332)

It is just because the Actions of the lawyer made me a few points more stoopider when I reads abouts them.

Re:I nothing Sacred these days? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040172)

I love US. Thank God I don't live there :)

Twofo Goatse (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23039838)

Goatse. [twofo.co.uk] [goatse.ch]

You nerds love it.

Silent Spring all over again (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23039856)

It's chilling to think that with vaccines it's like Carson's Silent Spring [amazon.com] all over again, except this time instead of damaging birds we're hurting our own children.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (4, Insightful)

rbphilip (530254) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039892)

Except, of course, that there is no evidence that vaccines harm children. Or adults.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (1, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039984)

Not to mention that "Silent Spring" was shown to be a crock.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040054)

So it's exactly like "Silent Spring" then.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (4, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040072)

Well, if Silent Spring was shown to be a crock, and people still bring it up as a bogeyman.... then yes, it's just like the vaccines (shown to be a crock, but with people still bringing it up as a bogeyman...) This just makes the comparison more valid! =)

Re:Silent Spring all over again (-1, Flamebait)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040082)

DDT was completely awful and evil for saving millions of peoples lives in Africa. Our government and the UN couldn't stand that so many black people weren't dying to malaria so they banned DDT citing BS and unproven science. Just read Kissingers NSSM-200 for the real reason why DDT was banned.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (5, Informative)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040302)

DDT was completely awful and evil for saving millions of peoples lives in Africa.
DDT is still perfectly legal to use for disease control, which is how it's used in Africa.

It's not legal to use it how we WERE using it -- to get a slightly higher yield from wholly un-diseased agriculture.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040142)

Not to mention that "Silent Spring" was shown to be a crock.

No, Silent Spring was shown to be valid, but people thought the the lives saved from reducing mosquitos and therefore malaria infection was worth the decline in bird populations.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (5, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040390)

Silent Spring was a crock in the overreaction that followed the book.

We went from spraying DDT on everything, to nothing.

There are films from the 40s and 50s where trucks would just drive down neighborhoods spraying DDT. They'd do it at public pools. No one thought anything of it. We way over used DDT.

In the wake of the book, people overreacted and moved to basically ban DDT outright. Instead of spraying in a controlled manner (such as, say, only where mosquitoes are a problem), we stopped spraying it altogether despite the fact that it was incredibly effective and cheap.

The book it's self was fine. As I remember Rachel Carson didn't argue to ban DDT but to be much more responsible in it's use. That really isn't what happened. It's that legacy (overreaction causing serious other problems) that people generally mean when they talk about Silent Spring being a crock.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (2, Insightful)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040276)

Not to mention that "Silent Spring" was shown to be a crock.
Nope. DDT thins bird shells in trace amounts, and has a measurable effect on humans. Notice how it's not sprayed everywhere anymore?

"Silent Spring" is no more a crock than "Y2K" was. The disaster was averted because America acted.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (3, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040440)

True. After studies where done that showed these effects.

The studies trying to link Autism to Vaccines all clearly show no such link.
On top of that, the rate of increase has stayed the same even after the removal of Themarisol.

That not really a surprise considering it's a different type of mercury then that which causes developmental problems.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (4, Interesting)

blueswan1 (1269016) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040582)

Here is how Dixy Lee Ray (with Lou Guzzo) described events (Trashing the Planet, page 69) [note: Ray has the timing wrong, the spraying was stopped in 1964, not the late 60s]:

Public health statistics from Sri Lanka testify to the effectiveness of the spraying program. In 1948, before the use of DDT, there were 2.8 million cases of malaria. By 1963, there were only 17. Low levels of infection continued until the late 1960s, when the attacks on DDT in the U.S. convinced officials to suspend spraying. In 1968, there were one million cases of malaria. In 1969, the number reached 2.5 million, back to the pre-DDT levels. Moreover, by 1972, the largely unsubstantiated charges against DDT in the United States had a worldwide effect. In 1970, of two billion people living in malaria regions, 79 percent were protected and the expectation was that malaria would be eradicated. Six years after the United States banned DDT, there were 800 million cases of malaria and 8.2 million deaths per year. Even worse, because eradication programs were halted at a critical time, resistant malaria is now widespread and travelers could take it home.

From: http://info-pollution.com/ddtban.htm [info-pollution.com]

Re:Silent Spring all over again (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040238)

That's an assinine claim. At the very least you have to be worried about potential
allergen issues with the components of various vaccines. Then there are various
vaccines which have known "infection" rates.

The whole POINT of vaccines is to be somewhat harmlful. That's how they work.

If they were completely inert, they wouldn't do what they are designed for.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (1, Flamebait)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040350)

wrong, Wrong, WRONG.

"The whole POINT of vaccines is to be somewhat harmlful. That's how they work."

GAHHHHHH! WRONG.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (5, Insightful)

brianf711 (873109) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039924)

What do you think the cost-benefit ratio is for reducing measles, mumps, polio, small pox, diptheria, strep pneumonia, N. meningitis HPV, etc? Between that and no known link between vaccination and autism, I think such a belief against vaccinations is one not based on evidence and one that is not reasonable.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040070)

Unfortunately people are not rational, and when they're child is stricken by such a disorder, rather than simply accepting that in a world full of luck good, bad and indifferent, they want to strike out, to make someone pay. There are plenty of things in the world that cause damage to children, but other than the odd bad batch, vaccines are not among them, at least as far as autism goes.

Flashback! (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040428)

I mean dupe [slashdot.org] !

Well, not the article so much as the discussion...We've already discussed vaccinations. This should be about overreaching subpoenas, which in this case goes way too far.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (3, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040480)

I see that this is really the media's fault, to a large degree.

We got really flimsy evidence of this link, which they trumpeted (because it was "sexy" and brought in eyeballs). When these studies were basically proven false, they got very little mention.

So now what you see is every once in a while a story is done about these things. They show some doctor saying "that's nonsense, you should be more afraid of scarlet fever." Then you see 4 crying mothers talking about how doctors ruined her kid's life. They are given equal weight.

So people don't get the right picture. They get a skewed one. They glamorize the "poor mothers" who get outpourings of grief. They play on people's fears. They don't deal with the elephant in the room.

The people who do these kinds of suits are either really stupid, or not finished grieving. The people that take it this far (make sites devoted to it, sue everyone involved, etc) are quite probably just in the "anger" stage of grief. They are looking for anyone or anything to blame so that it's not their fault, it's not random, etc. People prefer concrete incorrect answers (it's the mercury) to abstract correct answers (some kids just develop that way).

They don't talk about how these kind of things could be because of grief. They don't talk about how there is basically no evidence. They try to get viewers. The lawyers go for the long shot cash and the good publicity. Both are taking advantage of people operating out of grief.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040290)

This is quite true. There are several other factors, including possible genetic ones. How about the guy who was a sperm donor and had his sperm go to three separate women? It turns out they all had autistic kids. This seems like a good suggestive link to genetics involvement in autism to me. The problem is that the onset of autism and time for vaccinations are very close together.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (2, Interesting)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040354)

Do you have any proof that these vaccines indeed were the major reason for all of these diseases? Could it not be the fact that the diet of the normal person became more healthy? Here is an interesting picture that illustrates my point.

http://www.healingourchildren.net/Are_Vaccine_Safe/vaccine_side_effects_fall_in_death_rates.jpg [healingourchildren.net]

It comes form this book:
Medical Measures and the Decline of Mortality, John B. McKinlay, Sonja M. McKinlay, published in book, The Sociology of Health & Illness: Critical Perspectives, Peter Conrad

A great documentary from 1998 called Vaccination - The Hidden Truth
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6696666502913965744 [google.com]

Please type in vaccines and alzheimer's into google as well.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040514)

"Do you have any proof that these vaccines indeed were the major reason for all of these diseases? "

there are volumes of review literature, yes those diseases have been brought to the brink of extinct do to these vaccines.
You would have to be incredible ignorant, or complete deluded to think otherwise.

That's some nice cherry picked data you have there.

Re:Silent Spring all over again (-1, Troll)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040406)

My oldest daughter Leila has a measured IQ of 65. She's now on SSI disability. She was diagnosed with mental retardation, but as her dad who broiught her up I knew better - her reasoning abilities aren't at fault. I tried to tell each and every one of her teachers that, was ignored, and at the end of the year every one admitted that yes, I was right and the tests were wrong. I've since come to realise that she's autistic. Nobody who meets her now can believe that her IQ only measures 65.

Her development as an infant was advanced by every measure - until she recieved the MMR shot. She screamed and cried all day, and in a panic we called the doctor (now retired, maybe dead) who assured us that it was normal and there was nothing to worry about.

She was never the same again. The spark was gone from her eyes. Her life changed the day she got that shot. She now lives on government disability payments, in poverty, and will never hold a job.

Her sister's IQ is 132, well above normal. You're not going to convince ME there was no link. I was there. Show me all the studies showing red is really green you want and I'll be convinced that the researcher is color blind or dishonest.

I had measles and mumps, and I'm fine. Leila isn't. My friend Mike had polio (which has been completely eradicated in this country so there's no excuse for polio vaccinations here any more) as a child and he walks with a limp and one hand doesn't work well, but he has a productive job. Small pox and diptheria are gone, no need to vaccinate against them either. I knew kids with strep throat, none of whom developed pneumonia. AFAIK there is no vaccine for meningitis.

Cost benefit ratio, you say?

And besides, your straw man is on fire. The problem isn't the vaccine, it's the thimerisol.

-mcgrew

"I've got no sympathy, none at all. Throw them out of the airlock" - Prosthetic Vogon Brian Jeltz (IIRC)

This lawyer... (5, Funny)

dosius (230542) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039874)

...this lawyer sounds like a Scientologist.

*HIDES*

Re:This lawyer... (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040592)

Or the kind of lawyer that they'd employ.

-jcr

Logic and evidence be damned (5, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039878)

These people are angry and want something to take their frustrations out on. The fact that no studies provide any evidence of a link between the vaccines and autism is an minor inconvenience to be ignored!

Scumbag lawyers, shoddy science, willfully ignorant and upset parents - it's a perfect combination.

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (4, Insightful)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039968)

The guy who started all of this, Andrew Wakefield, now practices in the US, having been effectively kicked out of the UK medical scene.

He is clearly addicted to the idea of being a superstar doctor, and doesn't mind how many hopes, dreams and desperate parents he abuses along the way.

As science becomes debased in popular culture, by everything from homeopathy to astrology to religion, tragedies like this one will be the consequence.

We geeks need to get out of the basement and put our collective intelligence to work.

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (2, Funny)

Lazypete (863757) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040030)

We geeks need to get out of the basement and put our collective intelligence to work.
Hail to that, and on soooo many other issues!

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (2, Insightful)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040108)

We geeks need to get out of the basement and put our collective intelligence to work.
If said geeks do not have experience of dealing with the real world, no amount of intelligence will solve these social issues. (And, of course, being a geek != intelligence, but that's beside the point.)

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (3, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040218)

We geeks need to get out of the basement and put our collective intelligence to work.


But the light is so bright!

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (3, Funny)

josteos (455905) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040262)

We geeks need to get out of the basement and put our collective intelligence to work.
I want to help, but Mommy won't unlock the door!

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (-1)

Planesdragon (210349) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040426)

As science becomes debased in popular culture, by everything from homeopathy to astrology to religion, tragedies like this one will be the consequence.
I don't know if I should respond in rhetorical over your poor understanding of science or of religion first. I'll go alphabetically.

religion: While the news probably didn't reach your mom's basement, the antagonism between "science" and "religion" only started in earnest in the last two hundred years. For the thousand years before that, science and its precursors were thoroughly entwined with religion, both supported by and supporting in exchange the dominant religion of their land. Any stores you have to the contrary are, sadly, more properly called "Atheist Mythology" than anything else.

Science: Science is the bonna fide measure of truth today not because smart people went out and converted, but because the scientific method gets results. We know what we know because "Make a claim, then try and prove it false" works a hell of a lot better than "make a claim and see if it makes sense" or "make a claim and shout until the other side agrees with you" when you want to know how something works.

Oh, and btw -- the actually smart geeks are out of the basement. We've been so for a long, long time.

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040434)

We geeks need to get out of the basement and put our collective intelligence to work.

Yes, clearly the problem is that scientists just aren't as smart as a bunch of smelly, anime-obsessed helpdesk jockeys.

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (5, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040116)

It's even worse than that. The anti-vaccine movement operates much like a cult. It takes people who are in a situation where they feel isolated, helpless, and angry, and they give these people a strong support community that will not only alleviate their feelings of isolation and helplessness, but give them a boogeyman to lash out at. Once someone is in a community like this, they will continue to fight for the cause no matter how much evidence is stacked against them.

It's really sad, because these people are risking allowing some truly horrible and often fatal diseases to come back decades after they were virtually wiped out. I'd much rather have a minuscule and totally unproven chance of a few kids getting autism, which is not fatal, than have a virtual certainty of thousands of kids getting fatal and/or permanently disfiguring diseases like pertussis or polio.

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (0)

j-pimp (177072) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040442)

It's really sad, because these people are risking allowing some truly horrible and often fatal diseases to come back decades after they were virtually wiped out. I'd much rather have a minuscule and totally unproven chance of a few kids getting autism, which is not fatal, than have a virtual certainty of thousands of kids getting fatal and/or permanently disfiguring diseases like pertussis or polio.

I'll take polio over autism any day. I am pretty socially inept, but if i had autism I sure as hell wouldn't be able to hold a job, even if I was one of the "lucky" ones to end up with hyper intelligence.

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (1)

KnightRiderMGPC (958500) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040584)

Would you still rather have that scenario if it was your kid that was autistic? Take one for the team kinda thing.

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040600)

holy hell, you just described religion!

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040612)

I'd much rather have a minuscule and totally unproven chance of a few kids getting autism, which is not fatal...
I'll agree with you, so long as you sign your kid up first for autism. No? Oh I guess a "few kids" is ok as long as they're not yours?

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040336)

These people are angry and want something to take their frustrations out on. The fact that no studies provide any evidence of a link between the vaccines and autism is an minor inconvenience to be ignored!

Scumbag lawyers, shoddy science, willfully ignorant and upset parents - it's a perfect combination.
Just like Al Gore...

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (1)

Brother Phil (1151069) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040500)

These people are sht scared that their kids are going to grow up like me.
A large proportion of autistic people are nothing like as disabled as the likes of Autism Speaks like to pretend. It's bad enough having so called support organisations using scare stories about us as an excuse for fame and sympathy, without fcktrds like this using us as an excuse for personal injury scams.
(note - disemvoweled by poster)

Re:Logic and evidence be damned (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040578)

Scumbag lawyers, shoddy science, willfully ignorant and upset parents - it's a perfect combination.

Except that Bayer is the Defendant here bein evil!

This is why people hate lawyers... (5, Insightful)

R1Lawrence (1271570) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039890)

This is the worst of what our legal system allows. Now this woman is forced to hire an attorney just to defend her right to free speech. It makes me sick!

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (2, Informative)

WaltBusterkeys (1156557) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039994)

She's being subpoenaed, not sued. To be subpoenaed means that you have to turn over records or give testimony. She's not a party to the lawsuit. She doesn't have to pay any money or change any of her postings.

Don't get me wrong -- it's still a pain in the butt and it's wrong and probably an abuse of the legal system. But her freedom of speech isn't at risk. She could respond by just giving the documents requested. She shouldn't have to do so, but her speech is in no way at risk.

Non-party witnesses get subpoenaed all the time in civil cases. If you see a car crash, you could be subpoenaed to give testimony whether you want to come or not. Here, it looks like it's abusive since the witness doesn't appear to have any evidence relevant to this particular case, but it's not like she's being sued for her opinion.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (5, Insightful)

cprael (215426) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040214)

She's been given three weeks, give or take, to review virtually every electronic communication or posting, or scrap of paper, that has passed through her life in the last 4 years, and package it _all_ to take the deposition. She isn't even being offered a witness fee.

It is not "probably" an abuse of the legal system. It is one. It is also overly intrusive, and has a number of other "defects".

The last time I saw a subpeona like this, the lawyer quickly backed down, because he realized we were going to ask for sanctions for abuse of process as soon as we walked into the courthouse.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (2, Insightful)

WaltBusterkeys (1156557) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040252)

Sure, fair enough. But the great-grandparent hinted that she was being sued, which is a very different proposition. Being sued would be completely unconscionable.

Third-party witnesses get subpoenaed all the time. From here, it sure looks like this subpoena is abusive. But I can imagine other contexts (where she had secret documents from the PharmaCos related to the case or something) where it'd be reasonable. THIS subpoena looks abusive and I'd hope that the court looks at sanctions closely. But, not all third party subpoenas are evil.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (2, Interesting)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040472)

I was in a somewhat similar situation, although I was directly involved in the lawsuit. I was asked to submit to the deposition all online writing I'd done in the last 6 years. As I recall, I asked for an extension after delivering 1500 printed pages from one blog and telling my and the opposing council that those 1500 pages represented well less than 10% of what I'd written over that period. (I'm verbose.) They quickly restricted what, exactly, they were requesting, to strictly what was relevant to the suit, leaving it to my discretion as to what to include.
They'll ask for everything, but when it becomes apparent that they might have to sift through thousands of pages of material, they're often willing to be much more reasonable. THEY don't want to have to read through it any more than the person who received the supoena wants to print it all out.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (5, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040294)

Don't get me wrong -- it's still a pain in the butt and it's wrong and probably an abuse of the legal system. But her freedom of speech isn't at risk. She could respond by just giving the documents requested. She shouldn't have to do so, but her speech is in no way at risk.

It's called a chilling effect [wikipedia.org] . If this is upheld, it will send the message that if you criticise pseudo-science, you are in danger of being dragged before a court and having all your personal details examined for no good reason. It's an undue burden on speech that many people will not be willing to take just to speak out against some kooks.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040330)

"She could respond by just giving the documents requested."

They want:
"family's bank records, tax returns, autism-related medical and educational records, and every communication concerning all of the issues to which [she] has devoted [her] attention and energy in recent years."
that's hardly deserving of applying the word 'just' to, in either the 'justice' sense of the 'insignificant' sense. Bank records and tax returns? they simply have no business looking at those. As for everything related to her work on documenting autism - I couldn't put together a comprehensive and accurate collection of the work that I've done for the last month, let alone for 'recent years'. Depending on how long 'recent years' is, she could easily have got through 3 or more computers in that time - could you easily find all the work you've ever done on a subject over a number of years spread across paper and a number of computers? no, didn't think so.
Clearly, the subpoena should be thrown out, the lawyer disbarred, she should be compensated, and the judge tossed out of office on his ass if he doesn't get that done by noon on Monday.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (5, Insightful)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040384)

But her freedom of speech isn't at risk.
I disagree totally. Yes, they are not asking for her web site to be closed down. But did you actually read the subpoena [neurodiversity.com] ?

They want her bank statements, her canceled checks, her tax returns, and any documents even vaguely related to any issue covered on her web site, including correspondence with her physicians, attorneys, and any member of the government. Imagine how you would feel about giving the last seven years of your correspondence and financial records over to a hostile party.

And, of course, they want the right to grill her about anything related to any of that, while she pays a couple hundred bucks an hour in legal fees. And for why? Because she has blogged critically about them.

That doesn't just have an effect on her right to free speech. It has an chilling effect [wikipedia.org] on every blogger who sees themselves as a citizen journalist. Anybody who wants to blog about something important -- or even read blogs like that -- should oppose legal harassment like this.

This does put her free speech at risk (2, Insightful)

Skapare (16644) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040446)

This does put her free speech at risk. That is not necessarily through a process that would order her to stop. Instead, this is a case of harassment and invasion of privacy as a result of her having exercised her free speech rights. It may well be an attempt by Mr. Shoemaker to discourage her from speaking. She, or someone else considering speaking on these matters, may be discouraged from doing so for fear of the costs and invasion of privacy due to such a subpoena.

If Mr. Shoemaker had believed she had information relevant to the case, he could have simply asked for that. Instead, what he is asking for goes beyond what this case is about. We need to have legal procedures that mandate all subpoenas, even for discovery not carried out in the courtroom, be reviewed by the judge for relevance.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (2, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040448)

But her freedom of speech isn't at risk

Yes it is. Freedom of speech also is the freedom to NOT speak.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (1, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040016)

This is the worst of what our legal system allows. Now this woman is forced to hire an attorney just to defend her right to free speech. It makes me sick!
This is not what she is doing. Her right to free speech is not being interfered with. In fact, what the lawyer in question seems to be seeking is the documentation on which her free speech is based, so if anything this might be closer to a press shield law issue.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (5, Informative)

joseph449008 (1121209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040274)

Except that all the information Kathleen posts is supported by publicly available information, and Mr. Shoemaker no doubt knows this. The subpoena was issued 4 hours after Kathleen posted information about the money Shoemaker makes by losing vaccine injury cases. See her motion to quash [neurodiversity.com] . Make no mistake, some people would like to silence Kathleen and at the same time indulge their delusions that she's part of an government/pharma/illuminati conspiracy. What has happened is clearly a threat to freedom of speech. Imagine if lawyers could just issue subpoenas if they see an opinion on the web they don't like.

Re:This is why people hate lawyers... (1)

davewalthall (878247) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040382)

Look carefully at the 1st amendment -- it only protects citizens from the government. The government isn't preventing her speech (not even in a chilling-effect kind of way), so free speech arguments don't hold.

Man it's cold (3, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039930)

I thought it was Spring! What's that chilling effect in the air I feel?

Lawyers (3, Insightful)

njmarine2001 (946297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039934)

Practicing the finest abuses of perceived power man has ever known.

Re:Lawyers (1)

dave1791 (315728) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039970)

Helpfully, the abstract has a link that you can email the lawyer with. :P

Aspirin... (1)

Skeet112 (1088203) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039942)

Poor Soul: "Anybody got one...?" Bayer: "Yes sir, that'll be $50.00" Poor Soul: "For a frikken aspirin?!" Bayer: "Yeah, we haven't made a vaccine for headaches yet..."

Naturally. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23039944)

Well, yes, of course. How often on slashdot do we raise suspicions about the sources of funding and possible conflicts of interest for studies with passionate support (or criticism)?

Now imagine what you would do, if you had more resources; a strong voice in a legal channel; and a highly vested interest.

Blinded by the light (5, Interesting)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039982)

It's incredible the amount of unsubstantiated credence that some parents of autistic children will give to the thimerosal hypothesis. For example, Jenny McCarthy (who has an autistic child, and I have sympathy for her since it can't be easy) was on Larry King Live the other day, sititng next to someone who was there to debunk the supposed link between autism and thimerosal. His arguments were grounded in science, but she would not be moved, and she was extremely animated and emotional over any suggestion that thimerosal isn't to blame.

I suppose, in some sense, that it's like telling her that her religion is wrong.

Re:Blinded by the light (2, Insightful)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040138)

There's also the issue that if she can't blame someone else the only obvious alternative is to blame herself. Something few people would willingly face the possibility of doing.

How do you asses Blame? (4, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040260)

There's also the issue that if she can't blame someone else the only obvious alternative is to blame herself. Something few people would willingly face the possibility of doing.

I find it difficult to believe that the parent of an autistic child is to be "blamed." At this stage in the game, no one knows what causes autism so it is too early to asses blame.

Re:How do you asses Blame? (1)

cens0r (655208) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040418)

It's probably genetic, and if so, you could make the case that it's the parent's fault. I wouldn't make that argument myself, but one could.

Re:How do you asses Blame? (4, Insightful)

wattrlz (1162603) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040540)

There's also the issue that if she can't blame someone else the only obvious alternative is to blame herself. Something few people would willingly face the possibility of doing. I find it difficult to believe that the parent of an autistic child is to be "blamed." At this stage in the game, no one knows what causes autism so it is too early to asses blame.
When something tragic happens it's a natural human response to try and assign blame. It doesn't have to make sense. It might not even be conscious, but people like to have reasons for things.

Re:How do you asses Blame? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040604)

I think wattrlz was trying to say that she would probably blame herself, like most people do with these kinds of things. Since she knows it isn't her fault, it must be someone else's, right? It's just the motivation, and somewhat understandable.

Re:Blinded by the light (5, Insightful)

Oxy the moron (770724) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040162)

As a father of an autistic child, I can totally understand an emotional and illogical response to the suggestion of a Thimerosal/autism link. Believe me, at first it had me somewhat enraged as well. In light of some other drugs that have come under fire in past years for either under-delivering on promises or outright harming people that take them, it only makes sense that some people are going to look at a statement like that and say "Oh, look, something *else* the FDA missed!"

The problem is most people nowadays seem to either 1) lack the capacity to think for themselves (either mentally or as a result of time constraints, etc.) 2) lack the desire to think for themselves. After all, why bother doing that when someone else has already done it for me?

I also think that both sides are sitting too much in the area of absolutes. It seems that most scientists insist that *every* vaccine is safe for *every* child, and the inverse is true for those who think Thimerosal causes autism. Obviously, just the mere presence of Thimerosal doesn't cause autism, because if it did we'd all be autistic. But at the same time, I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that the large number of vaccines that are administered at once nowadays, along with other possible factors, are at the source.

Autism can be very difficult to work with as a parent, and I hope they find out the cause/cure soon. But flying off the handle, on either side, isn't going to get it done.

Re:Blinded by the light (5, Insightful)

tthomas48 (180798) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040312)

Scientists don't "insist that *every* vaccine is safe for *every* child". They insist that the small number of side effects in the small number of children is far better than the massive side effects (like death) of having to treat the diseases in large populations including children. They are fully aware that there are going to be a tiny number of kids that have negative reactions to vaccines. That doesn't outweigh the number of deaths that are prevented by getting rid of these diseases.

And these are planetary efforts. Sure in the US most of these diseases are not going to kill your kid (unless they're born prematurely), but outside the US these childhood diseases are much more serious. Vaccines are for the good of mankind.

Re:Blinded by the light (0)

dlcarrol (712729) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040508)

... good of mankind ...

'cause we know how well those pan out.

I see the thermisol argument as a red herring. Let's suppose that you can show that thermisol is actually expensive, distilled water. The fact that I still have to take it is the issue.

To what end? If it works, your kid had it and won't get Pluto's Spotted Canker Sores. If it doesn't, why do I have to take it anyway? While approving the general purpose and achievements of vaccination as a medical technology, why should I, my children, or anyone else be forced to X "for their own good" [where X = { lose weight, not smoke, get vaccinated ... } ]?

Re:Blinded by the light (3, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040324)

"It seems that most scientists insist that *every* vaccine is safe for *every* child,"
Unless a child has an allergy to something in the vaccine, they are.

"I don't think it's unreasonable to believe that the large number of vaccines that are administered at once nowadays, along with other possible factors, are at the source."

Actually it is unreasonable.
It wasn't unreasonable to look at that possibility, but it has been shown not to be the cause many times.

"Autism can be very difficult to work with as a parent, "
no doubt, but continuing to say 'maybe' to the vaccine issue doesn't help.

Re:Blinded by the light (2, Interesting)

samkass (174571) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040468)

The biggest problem with the situation is that the over-reactive parents are making the scientists defensive, and it becomes impossible to objectively discuss the evidence without appearing to "cave in".

Autism rates over time do not match vaccination rates over time, nor do they match vaccination rates across national boundaries, nor do they match national Thimerosal usage rates. However, that does NOT mean that a vaccine didn't trigger a particular case of autism. It could very well be that the child would have had autism triggered the first time they had a significant immune response and/or fever for anything, and the vaccine happened to be the culprit in that case. If they hadn't been vaccinated, their first serious cold, rotavirus, or whatnot would have been the trigger. If that hypothesis is correct, vaccine rates wouldn't track autism rates at all (since the kids who would have gotten autism would still get it) but from the parents point of view many vaccinations would trigger autism.

Thus, the problem is that I think scientists are afraid to risk their career tracking down some of these links that really could help children. Perhaps there is a potential drug for at-risk children that prevents their immune system-- if that is what triggers autism-- from doing the Bad Thing it does to these children. We'll probably never know, because who wants to research it now?

Vaccines are already largely unprofitable (contrary to most accusations from parents). They're usually administered 1-3 times in a person's life, carry a high risk of lawsuit, and have to be pretty cheap to get anyone to use it. That's why so few manufacturers make it, and why the government has to artificially inflate the market in order to get enough flu vaccines and such.

In any case, I'd love to see the hyperbole settle down and not have every court case where some child got a sky-high fever from a vaccine that caused brain damage be labeled as some sort of admission... these people need to just settle down, vaccinate for the "big ones" only if that's what they want, and get on with life as best they can.

Re:Blinded by the light (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040210)

It's EXACTLY like telling her that her religion is wrong. Once people invest their whole lives into a cause, it's virtually impossible to get them to give it up, because they don't want to admit that they've invested so much of themselves into something that is totally worthless.

Re:Blinded by the light (1)

RossumsChild (941873) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040360)

I find it curious that you criticize her for getting extremely animated and emotional without linking to her CNN.com editorial.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/04/02/mccarthy.autsimtreatment/index.html?eref=rss_topstories [cnn.com]

Whether she's right about the thimerosal link or not, I'd hesitate to go head-to-head on the topic with someone who essentially cured her child of autism--no matter how many statistics I had on my side.

Re:Blinded by the light (1)

brianf711 (873109) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040400)

I think it is completely irrational. There is simple evidence against the link, but obviously that didn't get through. Thimerosal was removed from most all child vaccines in or around 2001, but the autism rate kept increasing during 2004-2007 (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/01/08/autism_rate_in_calif_increases/ [boston.com] ). There is additional evidence, but this is pretty strong evidence. I should note, all I did was a Google search for "autism rate" and chose the second link. I hope any lawyers reading this don't want discovery of my financial records, although, as a student, they are pretty simple and can be summarized by a single digit: 0.

Re:Blinded by the light (1)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040496)

I suppose, in some sense, that it's like telling her that her religion is wrong.
A belief is a belief, be it God or some vaccine...

Re:Blinded by the light (-1, Flamebait)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040504)

When your child changes in ONE DAY and it's the day she gets the shot, it's pretty damned hard NOT to believe the shot's at fault. It's like some guy showing you scientific proof that hitting your thumb with a hammer doesn't hurt. "We don't know WHY it hurts, but we've proven it's not the hammer."

My oldest daughter Leila was diagnosed as mentally retarded (IQ 65) but I've come to realise that she's autistic. I'll never forget the day she got her MMR shot.

Her sister's IQ is 132.

Least it's not the Canadian Hate Crimes Commission (2, Interesting)

Nova Express (100383) | more than 6 years ago | (#23039986)

While this a is a clear case of trial lawyers using our broken tort system discourage free speech, at least it's not being carried out by a government trying to silence someone with the full weight of the law. Unlike Mark Steyn's persecution before the Canadian Human Rights Commission for the charge of "hate crimes." That commission explicitly stated that there's no right to free speech in Canada:



"Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value. [nationalreview.com]



Wrong on all counts, but the 1st Amendment does provide protections for free speech not available in many other countries, so I hope we see this particular instance of tort abuse smacked down hard.

Re:Least it's not the Canadian Hate Crimes Commiss (2, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040200)

that is correct.

we recognize the concept of freedom of expression, subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

Re:Least it's not the Canadian Hate Crimes Commiss (1)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040286)

This has nothing to do with "a broken tort system". This is just corporate propaganda.

This lawyer is abusing "the court system in general".

Ambulance chasing really has squat to do with it.

Re:Least it's not the Canadian Hate Crimes Commiss (1)

Dave Walker (9461) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040362)

My God, man, have you no shame? This is Slashdot; you can't quote the National Review here!!

Some idea of what their doing (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040006)

They want to make sure she wasn't being paid to blog by the pharmacutical companies for their impending suit with them. Is it dirty? Yep. Is it wrong? No

Cisco? Intel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040064)

Right because no blogger would ever post anything with a spin favorable to the interests of their corporate employer.

Re:Some idea of what their doing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040502)

well ok, they can have a 2 minute deposition wherein they ask her 'are you being paid by the pharmacutical companies?'. Depositions are given under oath (or, at least, lying counts as perjury). If they subsequently believe that she may have lied and can build a reasonable case to show that that may be the case, they can issue a more wide-ranging subpoena later. As it is, they're swanning over and demanding that she prove that she isn't in the pocket of the pharma companies - note that that's asking her to prove a negative, which is basically impossible.

Re:Some idea of what their doing (1)

BenSchuarmer (922752) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040546)

I hate big-pharma as much as the next guy, but so what if she was paid by the pharmacutical companies? How is that relevant to this case?

If she was a scientist it would be reasonable to ask whether her results were tainted by funding, but she's just a blogger.

What is the judge thinking? (5, Insightful)

vinn01 (178295) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040052)

The lawyer may be a sick farker, but the judge who allows this, without sanction, is even sicker.

Third party subpoenas should be looked at under a microscope for relevance. This lady didn't manufacture, sell, or administrate the vaccine in question. What does she have to do with the underlying lawsuit?

Re:What is the judge thinking? (5, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040170)

Subpoenas can be issued without any judge looking at them; they're filed with the court by the attorney and then served. It's up to the poor slob served to file a motion to quash (which she has). Punishment through subpoenas and the discovery process in general is nothing new, alas.

This is a good example why ... (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040614)

This is a good example why this procedure needs to be changed to require the approval of a judge before any subpoena can be issued to any outside party.

Subpoenas (5, Insightful)

GrifterCC (673360) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040144)

I am not a lawyer, but you just wait about six months.

The thing to understand about subpoenas is that in most states, once litigation commences, the lawyers (as officers of the court) for each side have the power to issue subpoenas to anyone who might have information relevant to the lawsuit.

The major limitations on such subpoenas are ethical limitations (attorneys' behavior is governed by a complex but far-from-bright-line set of rules) and the rules against discovery abuse, which can be found at Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(b) and elsewhere. The decision to grant sanctions is up to the discretion of the court, which basically means that an appellate court will go with what the judge decides, unless, for example, the discovery sanction is death.

However, it looks like Ms. Seidel is in good hands lawyer-wise. Her motion to quash the subpoena (the way that one tries to avoid having to comply) hits a lot of different theories and defenses, including the most important one: that the subpoena won't lead to discoverable evidence.

Postscript of Surprise: The plaintiff's attorney filed the suit in the Eastern District of Virginia, a federal court whose nickname is "The Rocket Docket." The consensus among attorneys is that once you file a case there, you should go ahead and say goodbye to your family for a few months. Rather than let litigation drag out for years, the Rocket Docket judges set -extremely- aggressive discovery schedules. Filing any complaint there is ballsy, no less a thimerosal one, since whether thimerosal causes autism is far from crystal-clear. Long discovery would mean more time for the plaintiff to gather evidence (and for new autism studies to come out).

She's already filed a motion to quash (2, Informative)

cprael (215426) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040152)

The only thing that would surprise me is if the court _doesn't_ fine the lawyer that produced that thing. "Abuse of process" barely begins to touch the matter.

Figures, he's a Shoemaker (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23040254)

Clifford J. Shoemaker is his name. My father would always use the term "He was a shoemaker" for anyone that f'ed a job up. Hired someone to build something for you and it turned out lopsided? "The contractor was probably a shoemaker" he would say. Not that he had anything against a shoemaker.

Playground Justice (1)

BlueZombie (913382) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040298)

Lawyer Bully stomping around intimidating the other kids. Only recourse? Get a bigger lawyer. I hate that about our society. Forget gravity, relativity, etcetera: There are two fundamental forces in the universe: 1) Lawyers 2) Accountants

I'd like to subpoena some clarification... (2, Interesting)

ZackZero (1271592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040402)

Disclaimer: IANAL

I am the sole proprietor of a number of domain names. All of them are paid for in full by myself, and none of them offer services or goods sold for monetary gain. I don't even collect donations myself, yet my host supports them (offering a means for people to donate directly to the hosting account for purposes of continuing services or upgrading those services.) Point being, were I to own a hypothetical blog in the same position as http://www.neurodiversity.com/ [neurodiversity.com] why would donation records need to be subpoenaed in the first place? Should people be in the mind to give to a site they support, shouldn't they be free to do so without having to worry about this? This subpoena seems rather similar to the McCarthy-era Communist witch-hunts in terminology used, such as referring to the turnover of the names of those who have donated.

Also, since when is a blog classed as a taxable entity, and since when are blog owners required to submit tax documents on behalf of their blogs? If this is a necessary thing, it is something I haven't learned during my entire time in the dot-com scene.

Again, IANAL, so tear it up in a respectful manner. I'd like to hear where my shortcomings are.

Well by their attorney's reasoning... (2, Funny)

NIckGorton (974753) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040476)

I am going to sue Micro$oft and that will allow me to subpoena CowboyNeal's recored relating to any treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, psychopathology, and substance abuse. Like duh its obvious why his claptastic history would be pertinent.

The H-word (2, Insightful)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040522)

This is nothing more than sheer harassment disguised as a blatant fishing expedition.

Thimerisol has not been debunked. (2, Interesting)

Vitriol+Angst (458300) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040560)

A medical review board just agreed that Thimerisol, and specific conditions in a young girl were responsible for causing her Autism.
This one case does not prove all instances -- but it opens the door.
In her case she had a mutation in her mitochondria that caused them to have reduced function. They found that the combination, and multiple immunizations, along with the mercury, overburdened her Immune system. So, it may be a combination effect; the low-level mercury poisoning (and I don't call add mercury to anyone by another name), combined with multiple immunizations, can cause Autism.

Now, the connection with the mutated mitochondria does not mean in itself that this is a freak instance, because underperforming mitochondria appear in about 20% of Autistic people.

I find the whole "debunking" thing these days, to highly favor well paid corporations. Bill Frist got lots of money from Eli Lilly, and he dutifully tried to put an immunity clause for them in 5 different bills. Finally, they got their clause into the Patriot Act II. Then we have to look at the lobbyists turned government oversight bureaucrats in the EPA, FDA and CDC -- oh heck, even NASA. They put a man who had an unhealthy liking for underage boys in charge of Child Endangerment. So, unfortunately, what "debunking" in the US could anyone trust?

Tell me the dollar amount donated by lobbyists on any issue, and I'll tell you the results of how this government will act on it.

I Am Kathleen (1)

joseph449008 (1121209) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040562)

My name is not Kathleen, but check out the I am Kathleen campaign [typepad.com] that has resulted from all this.

So - Improper headline (0)

gravis777 (123605) | more than 6 years ago | (#23040586)

To me, it sounds as if she is being subpoenaed for being an expert in the field, not for criticizing lawyers - which is perfectly legal and how the US justice system runs.
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