I've decided it's "lawyers behaving badly" day at Popehat. And for once I'm not just talking about me or Patrick.
Stand back, because I may burst with glee over our first entry.
Remember Clifford Shoemaker? He's the anti-vaccine lawyer who hit Neurodiversity blogger Kathleen Seidel with an abusive subpoena because she criticized him and one of his anti-vaccine cases. Later Shoemaker — was humiliated when the court granted her pro se motion to quash the subpoena. When ordered by the court to show cause why he shouldn't be sanctioned, he spun a ludicrous argument attempting to characterize Seidel's blog-based criticism of him and his client's case as a conspiracy to violate civil rights.
The other shoe has dropped. And it has squashed Shoemaker like a bug.
With far less schadenfreude than I would have displayed, Seidel reports that the federal magistrate assigned to the matter rejected Shoemaker's excuses and sanctioned him this week. She prints the full text of the order, which you can also see here (as Seidel's blog is being hammered with traffic as of this writing).
I've read a whole lot of orders considering sanctions against lawyers (not against me, thank you), and I've very rarely seen one so brutal. Here are the high points:
1. The magistrate judge sees right through Shoemaker's hollow attempt to transform Seidel's protected free speech into a civil rights violation, and in the process points out that though Shoemaker sneers that Seidel is a mere housewife, she's a better researcher than he is:
Shoemaker seeks to justify the subpoena by allegations that Seidel is not “a mere mother of an autistic child and housewife,” but a co-conspirator under 42 U.S.C. §1985 with her husband or “the defendant (Bayer) or by some organization dedicated to harassing this plaintiff (Ms. Sykes) and her witness . . .” Shoemaker’s claim that Ms. Seidel was the “leader of a conspiracy to obstruct justice . . .” is unsupported by any facts. It is clear that she has openly and extensively exercised her First Amendment right to speak out on the issue. Shoemaker certainly has the right to disagree with her, but he has no right to misuse the process to abuse her.
Shoemaker has not offered a shred of evidence to support his speculations. He has, he says, had his suspicions aroused because she has so much information. Clearly he is unfamiliar with the extent of the information which a highly-competent librarian like Ms. Seidel can, and did, accumulate. If Shoemaker wanted to know if Ms. Seidel was in part supported by or provided information by Bayer, he could have inquired of Bayer or limited the Seidel subpoena to that information. Instead he issued the subpoena calling for production of documents and a deposition on the day before he stipulated to dismiss the underlying suit with prejudice. His failure to withdraw the subpoena when he clearly knew that suit was over is telling about his motives. His efforts to vilify and demean Ms. Seidel are unwarranted and unseemly.
2. As a sanction, the magistrate judge orders Shoemaker to take continuing legal education courses on ethics and civil procedure rules, and directs that his order be sent to the state bar.
As Derrick would say, FATALITY. This is not merely a victory for Seidel and defeat for Shoemaker. This is unqualified vindication for Seidel and a searing, public, ignominous rout for Shoemaker that should haunt him for the rest of his career, the Good Lord willing and Google don't break.
Shoemaker and his attorneys Brian T. Stern and John F. McHugh should be ashamed (assuming they have the capacity for shame) for the naked attempt at silencing dissent and for floating the insipid "violation of civil rights" theory to justify that thuggery.
Sometimes the good guys win.
I don't know how the judges of the District of New Hampshire select which opinions to be published not just on Westlaw but in the Federal Supplement, the reporter that documents, for ever and ever, federal trial court opinions. I wonder if a few letters from lawyers encouraging publication of this case — which addresses important First Amendment and subpoena abuse issues — would move them? Let's see. Let's put Clifford Shoemaker's name up in lights.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Popehat Goes To The Opera: Un ballo in maschera - August 19th, 2017
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- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017
- Anatomy of a Scam, Chapter 15: The Wheels, They Grind - August 10th, 2017