Grievance Committee Letter to anti-vax attorney Patricia Finn
Hello Reader. As I and others have blogged about, an attorney named Patricia Finn has been all over the anti-vax cybercluster posting about charges of professional misconduct allegedly leveled against her by the Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District. An expert has informed the public that early disciplinary proceedings are confidential. Therefore, it seemed unlikely that the letter would ever see the light of day for the average person not in the business of perpetuating misinformation. And not having the letter prevented us from assessing whether the claims Finn and her minions are making about the charges are, in fact, true. For instance, in an interview that Mike Adams conducted with Finn–elements of which were dissected brilliantly by The Skeptical Lawyer – Adams claimed that,
“One document described her vaccine rights advocacy as “threatening the public interest,” asserting that her helping parents legally and ethically avoid toxic vaccines somehow puts the public at risk”.
Is this true? Well, now we can do more than guess, as Finn herself has released the letter to the public. For instance, the text of the letter that she has released states:
“Let the respondent, Patricia A. Finn, show cause before this Court …why an Order should not be made and entered herein, as follows:
- Suspending the respondent, Patricia A. Finn, from the practice of law on an interim basis pursuant to 691.4 of the Rules Governing the Conduct of Attorneys of the Appellate Division, Second Department [22 N.Y.C.R.R. 691.4], upon a finding that the respondent is guilty of misconduct immediately threatening the public interest in that she failed to comply with a lawful demand of the Grievance Committee for the Ninth Judicial District with respect to its investigation of her alleged professional misconduct…”
This page seems to indicate that, in fact, the allegation that Finn is “threatening the public interest” has nothing whatsoever to do with her “helping parents legally and ethically avoid toxic vaccines”, as claimed by Adams. Rather, it appears that Finn is allegedly in the doghouse because she has allegedly failed to adequately address a prior complaint by the Grievance Committee. The complaint goes on to say:
The authorization is based upon information posted on your webpage at [Patricia Finn's website]. The website contains the following statements:
“The Piermont law firm represents thousands of children and parents across the U.S. The attorneys already have an impressive record of precedent setting cases” [emphasis not added].
The statement that your firm represents thousands of children and parents across the U.S. is similar to a statement for which you were previously admonished. Said prior letter of admonition, dated April 6, 2010, found that you could not adequately document the truths of the statement “Presently, our firm represents nearly three thousand children whose parents do not wish to vaccinate due to religious beliefs and medical reasons”[emphasis added] .
Accordingly, it is alleged that your website contains statements or claims that appear to be false, deceptive, or misleading, in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct [22NYCRR Part 1200, Rule 7].
The obvious first question is whether her website still includes the language to which the Grievance Committee objects. The answer is yes, as of 8:33 P.M. EST of February 29, 2012.
As I noted in a prior blog entry, the link to the “precedent setting cases” says that they are “coming soon”. Now, I like an optimist as much as the next person, but the second question is whether this statement could be construed as false, misleading, or deceptive. As already established, I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the answer cannot be ascertained without requesting, at a minimum, the docket numbers of the cases involving her clients. In fact, names of clients may be required to confirm that the statement is true, depending on one’s definition of “represents”.
So, rather than this being a vicious hunt for parents who don’t vaccinate their children, as alleged by various media outlets with whom Finn has spoken, it looks like the real issue is quite simple. Does she represent thousands of children and parents throughout the U.S. or does she not? It appears from the letter that Finn has been jammed up on this before, and that she apparently did not respond to the satisfaction of the Grievance Committee. The rules for advertising by attorneys are clear and are reiterated in the text of the alleged complaint letter served to Finn. You simply cannot include false, misleading, or deceptive statements in an ad.
In summary, Finn can spin this however she likes, but once again, it would appear that what we really might have is a another member of the anti-vaccination movement who allegedly got caught doing something naughty. Instead of owning her alleged error, her next step was to follow the trail blazed by the Wakefield Follies and to go straight to the media in an attempt to make it an issue of persecution for opposing vaccinations. Nothing in the text of the letter that Finn has released so far indicates that this has anything whatsoever to do with her anti-vaccination beliefs. It’s funny, however, how much traffic is cruising by her Facebook page these days. Could this all be a cynical bid to drum up some publicity and business? No way, reader! No way. Because only Big Pharma would allegedly try to make money by spreading misinformation that harms children. Allegedly.