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Sykes v. Bayer Corporation

Topic(s): First Amendment
Internet Free Speech - Miscellaneous
Date Of Involvement: 05/27/2008

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Description:

In the course of bringing a claim in federal court in Virginia, asserting that a child's autism was caused by trace amounts of mercury in hemoglobin made by a predecessor of Bayer Corporation, the plaintiff's lawyer sent a subpoena to a blogger based on New Hampshire who had criticized the theory of the plaintiff's suit, demanding production of all her communications with anybody about the subject of her blog. The blogger moved to quash in federal court in New Hampshire, and in addition to quashing the subpoena, the judge ordered the plaintiff's lawyer to explain why he should not be sanctioned. The lawyer's explanation was that he hoped to prove that the blogger was defaming him and the plaintiff. Public Citizen filed a response for the blogger, explaining that the lawyer's opposition to sanctions did not justify his subpoena and, in fact, showed that sanctions were called for. The judge agreed, ordered the offending lawyer to attend a class on ethics and discovery, and directed that his ruling, and the briefs on sanctions, be sent to bar disciplinary authorities in Virginia.