Lawyer Seriously Slapped Down For SLAPP Attempt Against Librarian Blogger

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.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Poster, 3 Jul 2008 @ 1:49pm

    I think Ron Simmons said it best: "DAMN."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2008 @ 2:10pm

    pwned!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ragaboo, 3 Jul 2008 @ 2:24pm

    We'll all sign it!

    Can we get that judge's mailing address? I think we should get a thank-you card and all sign it and send it to him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DS78, 3 Jul 2008 @ 2:24pm

    Steps to the front of the crowd....

    ...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DS78, 3 Jul 2008 @ 2:26pm

    Steps to the front of the crowd...

    ...slow claps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2008 @ 2:28pm

    Well it's about time somebody put a lawyer in his place. Hopefully this will set a good precedent for future similar abuse of our legal system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2008 @ 2:33pm

    Now if only someone did the same to the RIAA lawyers... :/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    teknosapien, 3 Jul 2008 @ 3:02pm

    Holy crap

    Buy that Judge a case of 12 year old scotch !!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jypsy, 3 Jul 2008 @ 3:40pm

    "involving an incredibly broad subpoena against a librarian blogger compiling information on the potential link between mercury and autism"

    I think "compiling information on the lack of a link between mercury and autism" might be a more accurate description of Ms. Seidel's work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Clueby4, 3 Jul 2008 @ 3:43pm

    Lowered expectationsL

    Slapped down? I don't think so, mildly inconvenienced and embarrassed perhaps. How about a nice big fine, disbarment or some jail time, to me that would be a slap down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      BTR1701, 4 Jul 2008 @ 7:02am

      Re: Lowered expectationsL

      > How about a nice big fine, disbarment or some jail time,
      > to me that would be a slap down.

      A judge doesn't have the legal authority to disbar an attorney. Only the state bar can do that.

      As for the fine/jail, a judge can only do that if the lawyer has met the elements of criminal contempt of court, which filing an overbroad subpoena does not do.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Denzien, 7 Jul 2008 @ 8:51am

      Re: Lowered expectationsL

      I believe the judge did everything in his power without overstepping his authority.

      It will be up to the Virginia Bar Assn. to penalize him further. They will likely fail in this endeavor...but again, disbarment is not up to the judge.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Scott, 8 Jul 2008 @ 3:39am

      Re: Lowered expectationsL

      "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."

      Hmm, this would look like the beginning of disbarrment procedure.

      Oh and the bit about continuing education in ethics, etc. is hilarious.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    4byClue, 3 Jul 2008 @ 4:23pm

    Raised expectationsL

    I think he's probably referring to how well the judge presented the decision, not necessarily the decision itself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anne, 3 Jul 2008 @ 4:27pm

    People 1: Sharks and bottom feeders: 0

    SMAACKDOWN!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Milodon, 3 Jul 2008 @ 5:36pm

    Let the courts know!

    You can submit a survey regarding the judges performance here!! http://www.courthouseforum.com/forums/evaluationtrial.php?id=537&which=judge

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tony, 3 Jul 2008 @ 5:45pm

    We nee more...

    ..Judges who think and rule like this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2008 @ 8:41pm

    I think the lawyer should have gotten the information that he asked for. The judge was obviously paid off by the blogger and her contacts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2008 @ 11:46pm

      Re:

      Why? there is no reason to ask for that info BUT to intimidate and restrict freedom of speech/the press. Which, BTW, is designed to prevent corruption and public blindness to corruption. Honestly, we need more of it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        ToySouljah, 4 Jul 2008 @ 2:44am

        Re: Re:

        I thought he was being sarcastic...lol. I read it in a sarcastic way and it sounded better to me since it is usually the little people that get crushed by lawyers and their high dollar clients.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Jul 2008 @ 11:45pm

    And free speach wins.

    This judge, I would totally hug in public. THANK YOU FOR BRINGING THE WIN. SLAPP suits are filled with lots of Fail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    The i-Team, 4 Jul 2008 @ 1:21am

    Buuurrrrnnnneeeddddd....

    Kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside doesn't it? :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dooley P., 4 Jul 2008 @ 1:59pm

    Don't mess with the gravy train

    '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.'

    Should've known. The oldest one in the book.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve, 5 Jul 2008 @ 11:52am

    BWAAAAHAHAHAHA!

    OWNED!! In a nut shell, the Judge called the lawyer out as a hack, and ordered his ass back to school. He's also implying that the State bar should sanction him as well. Funniest thing EVAR!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), 7 Jul 2008 @ 6:27am

    Beautiful

    Score 1 for the public.
    Very glad to see this. Very glad indeed.

    I will join in the clapping, card signing, and I am going to fill out that review the judge survey thing.
    Woot!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jul 2008 @ 7:07am

    Awesome

    Now why can't he be the judge for some of these frivilous **AA suits filed by sleezeball lawyers! Nothing like seeing a lawyer literally schooled!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Scott, 8 Jul 2008 @ 3:43am

    You think the Virginia Bar will notice this?

    "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. "

    I think the fact that it comes from a sitting judge will ensure that they at least look at this guy.

    I suspect the lawyer will be teaching ethics to pre-law students in some community college in 5 years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Liz Ditz, 12 Jul 2008 @ 9:50pm

    Two new Seidel posts on Shoemaker's, uhm, professional conduct

    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. I've included the first paragraph of each extensive and detailed post.

    Billing the Adversary

    http://www.neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/165

    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

    http://neurodiversity.com/weblog/article/166/

    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.
    The content of these two posts is possibly what Shoemaker intended to block with the quashed subpoena.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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