by Sam Lea
Legal Satyricon Correspondent
Blogging, an often controversial area of the “marketplace of ideas,” has just won a victory over an overzealous attorney, who improperly sought to silence one of his clients critics.
In an Order handed down by the District of New Hampshire, Judge James R. Murihead levied sanctions against Clifford J. Shoemaker, Esq., for “an abuse of legal process, a waste of judicial resources and an unnecessary waste of time and expense to the purported deponent.”
The “purported deponent” is blogger Kathy Seidel of the weblog Neurodiversity.com, where she post articles by herself and others concerning the possible link between autism and exposure to mercury. After posting a particularly critical article of Mr. Shoemaker’s extensive litigation efforts in the area of Vaccine Injury Compensation Program claims, Ms. Seidel received a subpoena for Mr. Shoemaker’s most recent autism case involving Sykes v. Bayer Pharmaceuticals Corporation. The subpoena requested in the judge’s words “…every scrap of paper related to autism, her website, her tax returns, and her communications with the government.
Mr. Shoemaker defends by stating that Seidel is a co-conspirator with Bayer, “…or by some organization dedicated to harassing this Plaintiff and her witnesses.” The judge found this to be completely unsupported by any facts and recognized that Seidel was “openly and extensively exercising her First amendment right to speak on the issue.”
This is good news for bloggers in light of some of the recent litigation involving the blogosphere and free speech. Additional sanctions are may come from the Virginia State Bar, once they review the above Order from the court. Further and more extensive condemnation of the scare tactics used by Mr. Shoemaker will hopefully have a lasting effect and serve to caution future attorneys who may decide to use the government, via the court system to curtail or chill free speech adverse to the positions held by themselves and/or their clients.
Perhaps Mr. Shoemaker should be ordered to maintain his own blog for a while so that he may truly get a sense of how well his own ideas can withstand the test of the Market.
Sam Lea is a 3L at Barry University School of Law