[Editor's Note: In Geroge Orwell's book, 1984, there were four main
Ministires which had oversight over everything for Big Brother. The Ministy
of Truth included the newspapers, TV news, radio, etc. The Ministry of Peace
included all of the military groups, armament makers,etc. and the Ministy
of Justice included the government agencies and the court systems. The title
given to the 'Ministry', of course, was exactly opposite of what that organization
actually accomplished. Think about that when you read the double speak below
from government law-iars working for the Department of 'Justice'...Ken Adachi]
By Todd Zwillich
November 26, 2002
WASHINGTON (Reuters Health) - Attorneys for the Bush Administration
asked a federal court on Monday to order that documents on hundreds of cases
of autism allegedly caused by childhood vaccines be kept from the public.
Department of Justice lawyers asked a special master in the US Court
of Federal Claims to seal the documents, arguing that allowing their automatic
disclosure would take away the right of federal agencies to decide when and
how the material should be released.
Attorneys for the families of hundreds of autistic children charged
that the government was trying to keep the information out of civil courts,
where juries might be convinced to award large judgments against vaccine
The court is currently hearing approximately 1,000 claims brought by
the families of autistic children. The suits charge that the measles-mumps-rubella
(MMR) vaccine, which until recently included a mercury-containing preservative
known as thimerosal, can cause neurological damage leading to autism.
Federal law requires suits against vaccine makers to go before a special
federal "vaccine court" before any civil lawsuit is allowed. The court was
set up by Congress to speed compensation claims and to help protect vaccine
makers from having to pay large punitive awards decided by juries in state
civil courts. Plaintiffs are free to take their cases to state courts if
they lose in the federal vaccine court or if they don't accept the court's
The current 1,000 or so autism cases are unusual for the court. Because
it received so many claims, much of the fact-finding and evidence-gathering
is going on for all of the cases as a block.
Monday's request by the Bush Administration would prevent plaintiffs
who later go to civil court from using some relevant evidence generated during
the required vaccine court proceedings.
Plaintiffs' attorneys said that the order amounted to punishment of
the families of injured children because it would require them to incur the
time and expense of regenerating evidence for a civil suit.
"Wouldn't it be a shame if at the end of the day our policy would be
to compensate lawyers," said Jeff Kim, an attorney with Gallagher Boland
Meiburger & Brosnan. The firm represents about 400 families of autistic
children who received the MMR vaccine.
Kim accused the government of trying to lower "a shroud of secrecy
over these documents" in order to protect vaccine manufacturers, who he said
were the only entities" that would benefit if the documents are sealed.
While federal law clearly seals most documents generated in individual
vaccine cases, it has never been applied to a block proceeding like the one
generating evidence in the autism cases.
Administration lawyers told Special Master George Hastings that they requested
the seal in order to preserve the legal right of the Secretary of Health
and Human Services to decide when vaccine evidence can be released to the
public. Justice Department attorney Vincent Matanoski argued that to let
plaintiffs use the vaccine court evidence in a later civil suit would confer
an advantage on plaintiffs who chose to forgo federal compensation.
"There is no secret here. What the petitioners are arguing for are
enhanced rights in a subsequent civil action," Matanoski said of the plaintiffs.
"They're still going to have unfettered use within the proceedings."
Hastings would not say when he would issue a ruling on whether to seal
the court documents, but did say that his decision would be "very prompt."
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