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Blogger Subpoenaed for Criticizing Trial Lawyers 500

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lookin-for-a-free-ride dept.
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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Blogger Subpoenaed for Criticizing Trial Lawyers

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  • Blinded by the light (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:33PM (#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.
  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:34PM (#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
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:46PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:55PM (#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.
  • by megamerican (1073936) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:03PM (#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.
  • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:05PM (#23040390) Homepage

    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.

  • by ZackZero (1271592) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:06PM (#23040402) Journal
    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.
  • 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.

  • by samkass (174571) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:13PM (#23040468) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:13PM (#23040472) Journal
    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.
  • by Vitriol+Angst (458300) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:19PM (#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.
  • by blueswan1 (1269016) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:20PM (#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]
  • by matria (157464) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:28PM (#23040702)
    Actually, how it's often used in Africa is to dump barrels of it in the river or lake, then go out and gather up all the dead fish.
  • by brianf711 (873109) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:49PM (#23041020)
    Sorry to hear about your daughter.

    I've since come to realise that she's autistic.
    You said she was diagnosed with mental retardation, but you realized she was autistic, which has confused me. Was diagnosed with autism or do you think she is autistic despite a diagnosis of mental retardation (these are not the same entities)? Autism is usually characterized by decreased communication skills and decreased socialization. You haven't described anything like that, so she may not actually be autistic, or you have just not described those. It should also be noted that for autism to be diagnosed, the symptoms have to start by three years of age, I believe. If childhood vaccines are given frequently during this time, it is not unlikely that a significant number of people will notice an association between a vaccine panel and the first onset of the symptoms of autism by mere chance alone. I'm sure this could even be quantified, but I don't have the time.

    You're not going to convince ME there was no link. ...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.
    So you are saying you will ignore any evidence and all reason?

    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.
    Polio is still found in some of India, so I think the idea is to vaccinate until it is eradicated. Also, the morbidity is unacceptable for a preventable disease. You are saying, effectively, a little limp and loss of the use of a hand never hurt anyone.

    Small pox and diptheria are gone, no need to vaccinate against them either.
    Small pox vaccinations stopped in the 1970s, several years after it was eradicated. Diptheria isn't eradicated.

    AFAIK there is no vaccine for meningitis.
    There is for bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meningococcus [wikipedia.org], for bacterial meningitis caused by streptococcus pneumoniae strains: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pneumovax [wikipedia.org] and for bacterial meningitis caused by haemophilus influenzae B: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemophilus_influenzae [wikipedia.org]. I am not saying that vaccines can never do any harm, but that it is rare and grossly outweighed by the benefits. I seriously doubt your daughters mental disorder was caused by MMR vaccine (which has been well studied and refuted, and the original paper showing the link has since been retracted, but given your own admission of not believing any published evidence to the contrary, I imagine this is just wasted time on my part. However, I would like you to consider what ill may have fallen on your other daughter had neither of them been vaccinated.
  • by joseph449008 (1121209) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:59PM (#23041142)
    From Kathleen Seidel's Motion to Quash:

    17. The subpoena was not issued in good faith because its manifest purpose is not to elicit information relevant to determining Bayer's liability for Wesley Sykes' medical and developmental problems, but to indulge his parents' and their attorney's curiosity about my motivations and associations; to aggressively communicate their suspicion that I am not merely a fellow citizen who openly, intelligently and conscientiously disagrees with their public statements and actions, but a covert agent of the government, the pharmaceutical industry, or some other hidden force; to disrupt my relationships with my associates and news sources; and to intimidate, harass and retaliate against me for exercising my constitutional right to report and express opinions about matters of widespread public interest in which plaintiffs and plaintiffs' counsel are involved. These are not legitimate reasons to invoke the judicial subpoena power. Indeed, in so doing, Mr. Shoemaker has engaged in a sanctionable abuse of his authority as an officer of the court.

    WHEREFORE, Kathleen Seidel prays her motion to quash this unconstitutional, unreasonable, irrelevant, excessive, invasive, burdensome, frivolous, and clearly retaliatory subpoena be ALLOWED.
  • by Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:04PM (#23041206)
    Go to the subpoena. [neurodiversity.com] Go to page three, and read the list of names. Some highlights in this legal document: Killer of Sacred Cows; the Misbehavior of Behaviorologist (discussion board), meow meow meow... blah blah blah, and a HYPERLINK written out.
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:45PM (#23041582)

    >The vaccines scare us because the diseases don't. And they don't because of the vaccines.

    Right you are! I am old enough to remember the polio epidemics in the summer and being scared shitless of winding up in an iron lung. Swimming pools and libraries got closed and people were afraid to go to the ballgame. These Luddites should go live in Afghanistan or The Sudan with their like-minded brethren.

  • by Thondermonst (613766) <thondermonstNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:16PM (#23041868)
    Mmmm, I'm skeptical about this one. As a lawyer, why would you do such a thing? You'll make your client and yourself very impopular, anyone could tell that in advance. So, he must have got damn good reasons. My guess is he wants to prove that she gets paid by Bayer (and after reading some articles on her blog, she probably does). I have looked into HPV and the massive lobbying that is going worldwide to install mandatory vaccinations and I have seen how, in this case, Merck, has had blogs put up to promote the idea and has paid bloggers to write about the dangers of HPV and the connection with cancer. So, think twice before crying wolf.
  • Re:False dichotomy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slimjim8094 (941042) <[slashdot3] [at] [justconnected.net]> on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:40PM (#23042072)
    Many (most?) people would argue that vaccinations for kids need to be mandatory, especially in schools. The potential of a massive epidemic is too high, and too easily preventable, to be ignored.

    Vaccines should always be tested, but they have a proven, long track record.

    This is a lot like taking seatbelts out of cars because they break ribs - except seatbelts obviously do break ribs, while these vaccines causing autism is a much more foggy link.
  • by tomdcc (1270280) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:55PM (#23042198)

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

    We went from spraying DDT on everything, to nothing.

    Exception that's not actually what happened. DDT wasn't banned in the US until 1972, and yet some developing countries (Sri Lanka is the most widely used example) had already suspended spraying as a Malaria control measure in the 60's, as the mosquitoes had developed resistance to DDT, presumed to be from agricultural spraying. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has a reasonable (if short) summary.
  • DDT (Score:1, Interesting)

    by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @07:27PM (#23042476)

    Exception that's not actually what happened. DDT wasn't banned in the US until 1972, and yet some developing countries (Sri Lanka is the most widely used example) had already suspended spraying as a Malaria control measure in the 60's, as the mosquitoes had developed resistance to DDT, presumed to be from agricultural spraying. Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] has a reasonable (if short) summary.

    There were two other unforeseen consequences of spraying with DDT: " In the 1950s [wilsoncenter.org], the World Health Organization (WTO) dropped DDT on the island of Borneo to control mosquitoes, resulting in two unexpected events. First, homes collapsed under the weight of hornets' nests that died and hardened from the DDT; and second, and more troubling, there was an outbreak of bubonic plague because the DDT affected the island's animal nutrient cycle. Small animals (lizards, insects, etc.) became sluggish, while larger animals such as cats ended up with toxic levels of DDT from consumption of smaller creatures. Eventually, all the cats died, leading to an increase in the rat population and an outbreak of bubonic plague. The WTO's solution--which worked--was to airdrop cats to deal with the rat problem, which, in turn, addressed the bubonic plague problem."

    Falcon
  • DDT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by falconwolf (725481) <falconsoaring_2000NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @07:49PM (#23042654)

    DDT didn't cause the thinning. It's still banned though, because people fear global warming and other such nonsense.

    "In the 1950s [wilsoncenter.org], the World Health Organization (WTO) dropped DDT on the island of Borneo to control mosquitoes, resulting in two unexpected events. First, homes collapsed under the weight of hornets' nests that died and hardened from the DDT; and second, and more troubling, there was an outbreak of bubonic plague because the DDT affected the island's animal nutrient cycle. Small animals (lizards, insects, etc.) became sluggish, while larger animals such as cats ended up with toxic levels of DDT from consumption of smaller creatures. Eventually, all the cats died, leading to an increase in the rat population and an outbreak of bubonic plague. The WTO's solution--which worked--was to airdrop cats to deal with the rat problem, which, in turn, addressed the bubonic plague problem."

    Falcon
  • by rtb61 (674572) on Friday April 11, 2008 @11:48PM (#23044006) Homepage
    There is a really terrible mistake going on here. You really can't link vaccines to anything. There are many different kinds of vaccines produced by many companies. It is really very bad to lump them all together.

    So would a company produce 'a' cheap unreliable vaccine of poor quality in order to maximise short profits, well the history of corporations would tend to indicate that it is likely to happen. Would a corrupt corporation attempt to hide this behaviour to attempt to hide it's bad vaccine behind all the other safe and good vaccines by claiming any attack on their own product is an attack on all vaccines, well history would also tend to show that kind of behaviour will happen.

    No one should repeat or spread that error, not all vaccines are the same, you can not compare every vaccine ever made, to one product like DDT, the idea is stupid. So the only question to ask is, can a particular vaccines made by a particular company cause undesirable side affects.

    If I were a medical product manufacturer I would take the easy way out and simply prove that junk additives in junk foods cause a whole lot of different and varied problems. Hence it would be virtually impossible to prove than any particular medication from the 20th century caused any particular problem because it would have been near impossible for anybody to avoid all the junk food additives added into the modern western diet.

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