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Blogger Subpoenaed for Criticizing Trial Lawyers 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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Blogger Subpoenaed for Criticizing Trial Lawyers

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  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:33PM (#23039984) Journal
    Not to mention that "Silent Spring" was shown to be a crock.
  • by WaltBusterkeys ( 1156557 ) * on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:34PM (#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.
  • by cprael ( 215426 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:47PM (#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.
  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:49PM (#23040170) Journal
    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.

  • by compro01 ( 777531 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:51PM (#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.
  • by joseph449008 ( 1121209 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @03:56PM (#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 []. 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.
  • 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.
  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:28PM (#23040704) Journal
    Economics blogger Megan McArdle had a great post about this recently which elaborates on just how dangerous the anti-vaccination craze is: []

    The anti-vaccination websites sustain their belief by systematically excluding anyone offering counterevidence from the domain of acceptable sources. Pharma studies can't be trusted because they have a profit motive. The CDC is in hock to big business. The "medical establishment" wants to make money giving your children unnecessary shots. In fact, the only person you can trust is the guy writing the website.

    This is the sure sign of a crank. It is possible that all these people are wrong--science has had much more spectacular failures in the face of clear evidence. But there is no such thing as a multi-million person conspiracy. ...

    Looking for those links is entirely natural. But fingering vaccines has real and terrible consequences. Millions of children die worldwide every year from childhood diseases that we've eliminated here through vaccination. Now, because these websites are frightening people about vaccination, we're seeing a resurgence of those diseases. People are dying from them again, and others are being left with permanent health impairment. Leaving children unvaccinated means going back to

            * Leg braces and iron lungs for people with polio (57,628 cases in 1952)
            * Encephalitis and sterility for people with mumps (200,000 cases a year in the 1960s)
            * Congenital rubella syndrome for children whose mothers contracted the illness during pregnancy.
            * Blindness, pneumonia, encephalitis, and death--one per thousand--for people with measles (nearly 1 million cases a year in the US before vaccines).
            * Encephalitis and pulmonary hypertension for people with whooping cough--thanks to people who don't vaccinate their kids, in 2001, 17 people, mostly infants, died of pertussis (200,000 cases in 1940).
            * Cardiac arrest and paralysis for people with diptheria (207,000 cases and about 15,000 deaths in 1920).

    The vaccines scare us because the diseases don't. And they don't because of the vaccines.
  • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:29PM (#23040714)

    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.

    I agree.

    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?

    The subpoena asks for her tax records, bank info, etc. Not her blog's.

    ? 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?

    They should be...

    It seems as though there are numerous reasons why the subpoena would be quashed (it requires a 3rd party to travel over 100 miles, its overbroad and irrelevent to the matter at hand, etc. etc.) Basically, a subpoena is issued first without a judge looking at it. If the subpoena is objected to by the recipient, the judge takes a look. But subpoenas are initially stamped and filed by a clerk.


  • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:31PM (#23040754) Homepage Journal
    No, that is incorrect.
    "A medical review board just agreed that Thimerisol, and specific conditions in a young girl were responsible for causing her Autism."

    that is NOT what happened, stop it. You ahve completely misunderstood it.


    "mercury "
    No it's the wrong kind of mercury. It is NOT the same stuff that comes in thermometers.

    "I find the whole "debunking" thing these days, to highly favor well paid corporations."

    really? I find it to be favoring the truth. as it turns out many corporation are actually telling the truth.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:35PM (#23040814)
    "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."

    The problem with the Themerisol link is that there's absolutely no evidence to back it up - and when it was removed from vaccines, the autism rate continued to go up. That's pretty definitive proof that it had nothing to do with it.

    The larger problem I have with your idea is that you could say the exact same thing about just about anything - bottle-feeding with baby formula, exposure to the chemicals in baby blankets, heck, even increased exposure to pollutants in the air all have just as much evidence blaming them as vaccines. Without even a vague link, then taking any action, especially against something with as successful a history of preventing death as vaccines, is misguided bordering on criminal.
  • Correct spelling (Score:4, Informative)

    by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:39PM (#23040858) Homepage

    Thiomersal is one of those words that is more misspelled (as "thimerosal") than spelled correctly (according to hit counts from a Google Search). Both the blogger and the lawyer in this case have it wrong. More info is at [] and []. Also see [].

  • by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:40PM (#23040874) Homepage

    It's not a finishing, but an acceptance. When people get into this kind of mode, their progress through the grieving process stops. It's easy to make your whole life about this, and you get stuck in that pain and unhappiness.

    Say she wins this. Say she gets a constitutional amendment to ban these kinds of additives forever. Where does that leave her?

    She won't have her kid back. She won't have her adopted mission of getting rid of this stuff and making things "right" because she will have done that. She'll either move on (which she could do now, probably with some good counseling), find a new cause (cure autism, and be in the same state forever), or she can be purposeless and become more depressed.

    People in these situations don't want to deal with reality (in this case, that her kid is autistic and there is nothing she can do) so she is doing everything she can to focus on something she thinks she can control: this battle.

    What she is doing she is either doing out of mental illness (unlikely), or a ton of pain (most probable). It's rather sad. Even more sad is the people taking advantage of her and others like her.

  • by Skapare ( 16644 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:41PM (#23040894) Homepage

    It would NOT surprise ME if the court did NOT fine the lawyer. Many courts (maybe most) do let lawyers get away with abuse of process like this quite often. We'll have to see how this one turns out.

  • by CowTipperGore ( 1081903 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:42PM (#23040916)

    wrong, Wrong, WRONG.


    While your well-developed argument was initially convincing, I believe you may be wrong. Put simply, a vaccine works by causing the immune system to respond without the need for you to get a full-blown infection/disease. Many, if not most, commonly-used vaccines put a live virus in your body, albeit one that has been grown in a way to ensure they are weaker. Some use a closely-related but less dangerous strain. Regardless, the idea behind a vaccine is to elicit a response from your body's defense system, without causing a major reaction. That sounds a whole lot like what jedidiah said.
  • by cprael ( 215426 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:43PM (#23040938)
    Well, I didn't see anything that said "sued". The article title says "subpeonaed", as does the linked article.

    And yes, third-party witnesses get subpeonaed all the time. They're generally given notice that they'll be subpeonaed, given adequate time to prepare, and more.

    And, without any documentation/etc., there's no particular reason to presume that she's got secret documents or anything else related to the case.

    So, no, not all third party subpeonas are evil. But a surprising number are just plain _stupid_.
  • Atheist Mythology (Score:4, Informative)

    by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:56PM (#23041102)
    Atheist Mythology??? Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake in 1600 by the Roman Catholic inquisition for espousing Copernican Astronomy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11, 2008 @04:58PM (#23041134)
    A medical review board just agreed that Thimerisol, and specific conditions in a young girl were responsible for causing her Autism.

    I don't believe "causing" is the term that was used. I believe the medical board okayed paying out to the parents because they felt the Thimerosal COULD have aggravated underlying conditions which might have then played a part in the development of autistic symptoms.

    That's a big jump from Thimerosal causing autism. That could have been any chemical that someone has a reaction to, frankly.

    So while I wouldn't say that there is absolutely, never any link between a vaccine and autism, I would say that people holding up a case and saying "This proves that it causes autism!" is just as innaccurate.

    (And as someone else pointed out, Thimerosal is an organic compound that contains mercury and is used for its antiseptic and antibacterial qualities. Simply calling it "the mercury" is misleading. That would be like calling water "the oxygen.")
  • by The Great Pretender ( 975978 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:18PM (#23041324)
    Hold on. Do you really believe that in less than 24 hours, after one shot of thimerisol your daughter became autistic? I'm sorry, but I do think that you are forcing a reason into a vacuum of understanding.

    I'm a father of a 2 year old (who has had all the vaccinations), I also spent 7 years working in the area of mercury control, including thimerisol. Hg is nasty in most forms, but typically it takes a period of long exposure and bioaccumulation for someone to be affected. There are the cases where Hg containing substances have a lethal effect, but in these cases the effect is so potent that they would impact every person that came into contact with it, and we know from the statistics that this is not the case with thimerisol.

    Think about this statement, my grandmother was perfectly fine and then one day I bought her new alumnium pots, within a week (more than 24 hours) she was diagnosed with must have been my fault!!

  • Re:Correct spelling (Score:3, Informative)

    by ceejayoz ( 567949 ) <> on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:26PM (#23041968) Homepage Journal
    It's not misspelled, there are multiple spellings. []
  • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:33PM (#23042018) Homepage Journal
    You're correct, but that's another issue. What matters here is not the merits of the lawsuit. It's the ability of plaintiff's lawyer to drag in a blogger who's only relationship to the suit is that she's spoken out against it. That would be disturbing even if the case had obvious merit.

    I just read her motion to quash the supoena, and it has a very interesting claim: there's no indication if it was every approved by a judge. If that's the case, you have to wonder what stupid games this lawyer is playing.
  • by tomdcc ( 1270280 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:46PM (#23042112)
    Oh boy, the DDT myth again. Amazing how someone can mention DDT spraying in Sri Lanka and yet fail to mention that Sri Lanka resumed spraying but the mosquitoes had developed resistance [] to DDT, presumed to be as a result of wide scale agricultural spraying. That's one of the the real reasons for the third world cutting back on agricultural use of DDT: it left them with DDT resistant mosquitoes. Other countries stopped agricultural use because they had to export food to countries that didn't want DDT-sprayed food, etc. Did you actually read the whole page of the link you posted? That page was arguing against Dixy Lee Ray's version of events:

    There were suspensions in the spraying programs, but they were not the result of any "environmental hysteria". To understand what actually happened, it is necessary to learn about the realities of pesticide use. One of the major problems with using pesticides is that insect populations soon develop resistance to the chemicals. Insects resistant to DDT began appearing one year after its first public health use (Garrett, page 50). As new insecticides were introduced, resistance to them also developed. Much of Silent Spring is a cataloging of reports of resistance to insecticides. With the problem of mosquito resistance to DDT in mind, a plan to eradicate malaria was developed--several years of spraying, accompanied by treating patients with anti-malaria drugs, would be followed by several years of monitoring...
    Please, people, stop perpetuating this myth.
  • by Basje ( 26968 ) <> on Friday April 11, 2008 @07:24PM (#23042448) Homepage
    Actually, the immune system does not react to the virus itself, but to the proteins around it. For a vaccine to be effective it's therefore not necessary to contain the virus, but only its protein coat.

    However, many (most, all?) vaccines are produced by producing the virus with its coat and then disabling the virus, keeping the coat or at least its proteins intact.

    Mercury may be used to disable some viruses in this way, thus ending up with a mercury containing vaccine.
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday April 11, 2008 @08:14PM (#23042822) Homepage
    Except that there is no evidence that DDT caused the thinning, and, in fact, the shells have continued to thin long after DDT use had stopped.

    No, they didn't, once you account for the time it takes for the DDT to leave the food chain. Birds of prey consumed DDT by eating other things that had absorbed DDT from the environment, perhaps by themselves eating other things, so until all the DDT is gone from the environment, and every animal up the food chain that had absorbed some was dead, the birds were still being damaged. And very shortly after the ban, the populations of birds that despite being protected had continued to decline rapidly began to recover. The bald eagle is safely off of the list of endangered species because of the DDT ban.

    There is tons of evidence that DDT was killing these birds and damaging their eggs and young (many of the young whose shells didn't crack still died due to DDT poisoning).
  • Re:DDT (Score:4, Informative)

    by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <> on Friday April 11, 2008 @10:45PM (#23043664)

    Secondly DDT isn't like mercury, it doesn't just accumulate in a predator's body and work its way up the food chain, it leaves the body.

    You'd better let the EPA you know more than they do because they have DDT as a Persistent Bioaccumulative and Toxic (PBT) Chemical [].

    Ecosystems are complex things and killing all the insects is such a huge thing that it's going to have some complex repercussions.

    Because of that complexity, to disrupt an ecosystem a chemical doesn't mean needing to kill everything, all it takes is to remove one crucial element to do so, just as removing a Keystone [] from an arch or dome will bring the whole thing down.

  • by aepervius ( 535155 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @02:24AM (#23044570)
    It was not because of the thiomersal that the mother of with the autist daughter was awarded, but because the daughter had a rare form of mytochondrial disease, and the subsequent treatment and vaccine given to her worsened her condition. NOTHING to do with thiomersal per see. It pays to read the judgment before accusing other of not being informative.

    Furthermore after 2001 , NO REDUCTION in autism was observed despite lessened to null use of thiomersal. And study were made it has no autism impact. How many more evidence you need ? Finally you are omitting a very important fact from your "ethyl mercury is toxic" meme. 1) how long does it take to metabolise from thiomersal to ethyl mercury 2) how does it relate to ethyl mercury half life in the body 3) how does it relate to the minimal quantity of thiomersal in vaccine ? 4) how is the quantity of ethyl mercury due to vaccine at ANY time in comparison to the dosis at which it starts affecting the body (and yes there are quantity which are perfectly tolerable, and even quantity of Eth-Hg which can be totally ignored). and more importantly 5) how does it relate to parents saying that within 24 hours their kids got autism !!!!
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Saturday April 12, 2008 @03:46AM (#23044856)

    "Global climate change" is a serious issue we need to study. There is NOT a consensus in the scientific community as to whether or not we contribute to it, can do anything about it, or if it's even a bad thing.

    Except, of course, that there is a consensus on these things among scientists, as far as scientists can ever be "in consensus". Only a few nutjobs and industry propagandists disagree.

  • by 2short ( 466733 ) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @05:06PM (#23163692)
    It doesn't matter how long you can yell "correlation != causation", because the interesting logical rule to know here is that lack of correlation implies lack of causation.

        A "boatload of children go from being normal to starting to show symptoms" at the same age and at the same rate amongst groups that get the vaccines or not.

    It's not just that there is no evidence vaccines cause autism; there is extremely strong evidence that they definitely do not cause autism. If they did, kids who got the vaccines would show increased rates of autism vs. those who did not, and that is not the case.

    Kids who do not get vaccines get autism at the same rate, and other nasty things for which we have perfectly good vaccines at much higher rates.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN