Previously I blogged about how Virginia attorney Clifford Shoemaker, counsel for a litigant claiming harm from vaccines, sent an abusive subpoena to blogger Kathleen Seidel at Neurodiversity in an apparent attempt to chill her criticism of his litigation campaign. Here's an update to restore a bit of your faith in the legal system.
First, Kathleen Seidel reports that the public interest law group Public Citizen stepped in to represent her in connection with her attempt to quash the subpoena. That was major trouble for Shoemaker, as Public Citizen has substantial credibility and would draw a lot of attention to her arguments that the subpoena was calculated to retaliate against her for writing about Shoemaker.
Second, Seidel also reports that Shoemaker went even further, hitting a Harvard professor and former members of the Immunization Safety Review Committee of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) with a subpoena, apparently in an attempt to attack the credibility of that organization's conclusions about vaccine safety. Once again, the professor is not a party to the case; she just has the misfortune to have said something publically that a thuggish lawyer doesn't like.
Third, here's the good news: the judge quashed the subpoena and ordered Shoemaker to show cause why he should not be sanctioned under Rule 11. That's a fairly unusual and grave step in federal court. Shoemaker is in trouble. If he's sanctioned for this, the sanctions will probably be reported to his State Bar. It's not clear to me, but it appears that the court may have issued the order based on Seidel's pro se motion to quash, which is quite a coup — and a humiliation for Shoemaker.
The system is all too slow to punish sleazy lawyers who use the law to chill speech, punish dissent, and inflict pain and trouble on adversaries. This is good news.
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