The New Marketplace of Ideas Remains Open for Business

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, 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

One Response to The New Marketplace of Ideas Remains Open for Business

  1. Liz Ditz says:

    I was one of the bloggers named in Shoemaker’s subpoena, which is my dog in the hunt.

    You may find Seidel’s two latest posts of interest.

    Billing the Adversary

    Numerous decisions issued over the twenty year history of the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) document the extent to which the limits on attorney compensation have been tested by practitioners seeking remuneration from its taxpayer-financed coffers. The following review summarizes decisions involving the recently-sanctioned VICP specialist Clifford Shoemaker, Esq. — a central instigator of the campaign to convince the public of the speculative, scientifically unsupported hypothesis that a significant number of cases of autism result from vaccine injury, co-founder of the Institute for Chronic Illnesses, and a founding member its Institutional Review Board, which sponsors and provides ethical oversight of medical research and experimentation on autistic children and adolescents conducted by his long-time colleague Dr. Mark Geier.

    Inspecting the Outstretched Palm

    The potential for procedural and billing improprieties by Vaccine Injury Compensation Program petitioners’ attorneys — especially those representing numerous clients with similar, speculative claims — is made painfully evident in Special Master Denise Vowell’s recent fee and cost decision in Carrington v. HHS, Case 99-495V (Fed.Cl.Spec.Mstr., June 18, 2008) (unpublished), posted to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims website three days ago.

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