from the ouch dept
We've covered the concept of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suits plenty of times before
. These are bogus lawsuits filed to try to bully a critic into shutting up. In one such case, involving an incredibly broad subpoena against a librarian blogger compiling information on the potential link between mercury and autism, a magistrate judge has seriously smacked down the lawyer who filed the subpoena
. The blogger had merely published on her blog information about the fees the lawyer in question had received. In response, the lawyer subpoenaed a ridiculous amount of information from her: "all documents pertaining to the setup, financing, running, research, maintaining" of the blog, "including communications with representatives of the federal government, the pharmaceutical industry, advocacy groups, non-governmental organizations, political action groups, profit or non-profit entities, journals, editorial boards, scientific boards, academic boards, medical licensing boards, any 'religious groups (Muslim or otherwise), or individuals with religious affiliations,' and any other 'concerned individuals.'"
The judge quashed the subpoena quickly, but has now hit back really hard on the lawyer, Clifford Shoemaker, for filing it in the first place:
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....
I find that Clifford Shoemaker violated Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(1) and Rule 45(c)(1).... The 11(b)(1) violation may also violate Virginia's Rules of Professional Conduct .... Clifford J. Shoemaker’s action is an abuse of legal process, a waste of judicial resources and an unnecessary waste of the time and expense to the purported deponent.
The Clerk of Court is directed to forward a certified copy of this order, the motion to quash, the show cause order, and the response of Shoemaker and Seidel to the appropriate professional conduct committee of the Virginia State Bar in order that it may be made aware of Clifford J. Shoemaker's conduct and so that those authorities may take whatever action they deem appropriate.
As a sanction from this court, Clifford J. Shoemaker is ordered to attend within three months, a continuing legal education program on ethics and on the discovery rules in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. He is ordered to file a certification of completion of the programs.
Now that's a smackdown.