Look at all those honeybees, buzzing around the hive! One of them is named Kathleen. (Can you tell them apart? I sure can’t — they’re all sisters.) So where’s Kathleen? “Yoo-hoo! Which one of you is Kathleen?”
“I am Kathleen!”
“I am Kathleen!”
“I am Kathleen!”
“I am Kathleen!”
Due to scholastic issues, I am late making this post. If you’ve not already heard, a blogger, Kathleen Seidel of the Neurodiversity.com weblog, was recently served with a subpoena by a lawyer in a current case. Kathleen has long blogged about the lack of scientific credibility of the vaccines-cause-autism idea, and the court case deals with such. As a citizen-journalist, Kathleen has commented upon this case and others like it, and her posts are copiously annotated with the supporting references from public domain documents. Other bloggers with legal backgrounds have commented that this kind of legal action seems to fall into the category of a “SLAPP”, Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation:
This form of litigation is frequently filed by organizations or individuals to intimidate and silence critics or opponents by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense so that they abandon their criticism or opposition.
Walter Olson of the Overlawyered blog calls the subpoena a “fishing expedition” and “intimidation”. Not only are the demands in the document incredibly broad and laboriously demanding, they are simply irrelevant to the case. Kathleen asserts that she is not involved in the case, and she does not have any special information relevant to the case.
As she stated in her reply (a “motion to quash”),
9. The subpoena commands production of “all documents pertaining to the setup, financing, running, research, maintaining the website http://www.neurodiversity.com” – including but not limited to material mentioning the plaintiffs – and the names of all persons “helping, paying or facilitating in any fashion” my endeavors. The subpoena demands bank statements, cancelled checks, donation records, tax returns, Freedom of Information Act requests, LexisNexis® and PACER usage records. The subpoena demands copies of all of my communications concerning any issue which is included on my website, 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.”…
15 … Plaintiffs and their counsel seek not only to rummage through records that they suspect pertain to themselves, but also through my family’s bank records, tax returns, autism-related medical and educational records, and every communication concerning all of the issues to which I have devoted my attention and energy in recent years.
This is an incredible amount of documentation. Who would even keep all of these kinds of records? Many sorts of library searches do not give you “receipts”. And, as originally cited in the subpoena, what sort of search engine is “Lexus Nexus”, an automotive dealership? They probably mean LexisNexis(R), as Kathleen properly refers to it. (Spelling error or Freudian Slip?) And what’s with the “religious groups (Muslim or otherwise)”? Her religious affiliations (or lack thereof) have no bearing on the lawsuit.
The subpoena itself lists in those requested documents, “written or verbal communications” between her and a very, very long list of people or groups, which reading through is quite quickly apparent simply her blogroll, meaning all the 100+ blogs that she has links to on her sidebar. Mine is one of that large number, probably because my blog is listed in the Autism Hub feed. Mind you, I have never even mentioned anything about this particular court case on my blog.
So, disclosures: I have no special information about this court case, and I don’t even know any of the people involved. I don’t even know Kathleen personally, and have never met her. I do not work for her or for Neurodiversity.com, and have never even been to New Hampshire. I’ve probably made a few comments on her blog, as I’ve made comments on all sorts of blogs across the World Wide Web, but her blog is not listed on my blogroll. I do have a family member diagnosed with an ASD. I work in school settings with students who have various educational needs, including ASDs. I do not work for a law company, for a pharmaceutical company, or for a medical company.
Asking Kathleen for the least crumb of communication between herself and the numbers of people mentioned simply because they are on her blogroll is absolutly nutz. Can you imagine how many endless pages of paper all those requested documents would be? (What if you printed out every e-mail you had ever sent or received? Do you keep every e-mail you have ever sent or received? Neither do I.)
The responses to this action in the blogosphere have been incredible; big names like Pharyngula, Orac, and Steven Novella have taken time to comment upon action. Liz from I Speak of Dreams is keeping a running list. I too think the legal action is absurd.
One bee from the hive stops to turn over. Instead of being able to look at the viewer, she is displaying her underside, and we have a great shot of a bee’s ventral abdomen, essentially her rear end. Yeah, check out THAT waggle dance, folks.