The curious case of Patricia Finn, Esq., antivaccine lawyer

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last seven years, it’s that there are a handful of people in the “natural health” movement (a.k.a., quackery movement) who can reliably counted upon to bring home the crazy in spades. There is, of course the granddaddy of all conspiracy sites, Whale.to, and its creator John Scudamore, for whom no quackery is too quacky, no pseudoscience too ridiculous, and no conspiracy theory too outlandish. Truly, that is a high bar of crazy to surpass, but there are certainly people out there trying to do it. Perhaps the one I encounter the most is Mike Adams, creator of NaturalNews.com, a man for whom similarly no quackery is too quacky, no pseudoscience too ridiculous, and no conspiracy theory too outlandish. The difference is that Adams has not achieved the sheer breadth of crazy, given that he tends to specialize more than anything else in promoting quackery and antivaccine pseudoscience. Lately, however, he has been branching out into New World Order conspiracy theories and the like; so maybe someday he’ll get there.

Sometimes, in bringing home the crazy, Mike Adams brings up a story I haven’t heard of before and flogs it to death. Such was the case yesterday, when I came across a post entitled Vaccination rights attorney Patricia Finn threatened with criminal charges; New York State demands she surrender names of all clients. Given Adams’ track record, if he were to proclaim that it’s raining outside, I’d stick my head out the window to verify it before accepting that it is, in fact, raining outside. Let’s just say that Adams’ view of reality is–shall we say?–skewed to the point that you can’t take anything he says at face value. So let’s see what he’s saying about Finn:

Vaccine rights attorney Patricia Finn is being targeted by the Ninth Judicial District of New York State, which has threatened to strip her of her license to practice law and even file criminal charges against her. Finn is one of several “vaccine rights” attorneys across America who helps parents assert their rights to protect their children from potentially deadly vaccines. She’s considered a hero by many, but a villain by the status quo for daring to stand up against the vaccine-pimping medical police state that exists in America today.

I decided to Google Patricia Finn in order to see if I could find out some more objective information about her, given that I’ve never heard of her before. It was difficult. The first page was nothing more than rants on antivaccine and conspiracy sites about how Finn is being targeted, or how there’s a conspiracy to silence her and prevent her from standing up to the medical/pharmaceutical complex, with Mike Adams’ piece being near the top, along with Finn’s website and her Facebook page, the latter of which gives you a good idea of Finn’s proclivities, given that she has listed as “likes” pages and organizations like the Vaccination Information Network, Dr. Wakefield’s Work Must Continue, and simlar antivaccine sources. On her webpage, she proclaims that her practice areas include:

  • Vaccine injuries and vaccine exemptions (for employees, school-age children, military personnel, immigration matters and others being mandated to vaccinate).
  • Criminal defense (DWI’s, all felonies and misdemeanor crimes)
  • Education law (concentrating in special education, suspensions, IEPs, vaccination exemptions and other school related matters.

In particular, Finn seems to specialize in obtaining religious exemptions to vaccination. Now, believe it or not, I don’t inherently object to this practice. As wrong on the science Finn is, everyone, even antivaccine parents, deserves legal representation, and the law is the law. In order to make vaccine exemptions more difficult to get, the law should be changed to make that happen. Until then, given that this is a nation of laws, everyone has the right to challenge laws in court on a Constitutional basis. She’s misguided. She’s backed the wrong side from a scientific basis. But she can certainly specialize in this area of law if she likes. More searching led me to discover that Finn has been the lawyer for a number of prominent vaccine cases. For instance, she represented a nurse named Suzanne Field who sued in 2009 to try to get New York’s regulation requiring health care workers to be vaccinated. Then, of course, she was involved with a parent in West Virginia seeking a religious exemption for her child.

Adams really brings home the crazy in his next passage. Whatever the State of New York is or is not doing when it comes to investigating Finn, no one–and I mean no on–can ramp up the crazy hyperbole the way Mike Adams can:

Perhaps even more alarmingly, a letter outlining the various charges against Patricia Finn included the demand that she immediately surrender her complete list of clients to the judiciary. When I saw this, it immediately set off alarm bells. This is not merely a gross violation of attorney/client privilege; it’s also a thinly-veiled attempt for the New York judiciary to terrorize the parents who have sought legal help in opting out of dangerous vaccines.

Furthermore, it could serve as the starting point for New York State to dispatch CPS workers to the homes of all of Finn’s clients, where their children might be kidnapped by CPS and sold into sex slavery (this is a common behavior of CPS workers across the country, where low-income children simply “disappear” into the system and suffer ongoing sexual abuse by state workers or even high-paying clients, similar to what happened at Penn State). I don’t have the space to go into all the evidence that CPS functions as a child kidnapping and sex slavery ring, but the organization isn’t called “Communist Pedophile Services” for no reason.

Yes, you heard it right. According to Adams, the real reason the State of New York is going after Finn is because they want her client list so that CPS workers can find unvaccinated children, kidnap them away from their parents, and sell them into sex slavery. It would be laughable if I didn’t know that Adams is dead serious about this. In any case, one thing that is absolutely certain here is that we’re getting only one side of the story, most likely because, as Finn complains again and again, the proceedings by the NYS Ninth Judicial District Grievance Committee are confidential. This allows Finn to go to cranks like Mike Adams and Curt Linderman at InfoWars to say whatever she wants, and the court can’t respond. It’s very much the same thing as when state medical boards go after quacks. The quacks can say pretty much whatever they want about the proceedings while they are going on, and the state medical boards are constrained by the confidential nature of the proceedings from responding.

As an example of this phenomenon, take a look at this video of Mike Adams interviewing Patricia Finn for the conspiracy site InfoWars. (Sorry, I can’t embed it.) In the video, she inadvertently provides some information that might not be consistent with her claims of persecution in that apparently there were complaints made against her and there were also apparently allegations involving false advertising. After more searching I found more information, although most of it is from sites claiming The Man is out to get Finn. For instance, there is this post by Raven Clabough entitled N.Y. Threatens to Remove License of Anti-vaccine Attorney. She seems to be blaming the action on Finn’s representation of an antivaccine–excuse me, “health freedom”–group called We The Parents, who hired Finn to represent them in legal action against the state of West Virginia, which is one of the only states that doesn’t have a religious exemption for its vaccine mandate. Finn mentions in her video that she was served with papers after having appeared at an antivaccine rally in West Virginia sponsored by We The Parents, as shown in this video:

Notice how Finn has clearly completely drunk the antivaccine Kool-Aid, with a panoply of standard antivaccine tropes, interspersed with plugs for her law office.

So what’s really going on? Again, we have only one side of the story, but even that side is at times inadvertently revealing. For instance, in her interview, she reveals that in 2009 a pediatrician filed a grievance against her alleged that she was encouraging people to subvert the law and that her actions could be a public health risk and then later charged with an advertising violation. Her most recent trouble began about a week ago, when she was served with papers. Unfortunately, the only source I could find for what was contained in those papers are Infowars and her interview. According to an InfoWars article:

These most recent charges have to do with suspected false advertising where the committee questions just how many clients Patricia has represented. This is also one of the reasons that this committee is demanding a list of names from her former and current clients, a clear violation of attorney/client privilege. This committee is placing charges on this undaunted attorney because she is bucking the system. This is plain and clear to all activists within the anti-vaccine/pro vaccine choice community since we witness these tactics on a daily basis. Patricia states in my recent interview with her, that she believes that the timing of these recent complaints was “designed to intimidate me and unsteady me, in anticipation of my key note address in West Virginia.”

Finn rails against this as a violation of attorney-client privilege and even a violation of HIPAA, the U.S. patient privacy law. Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I fail to see how requesting the docket numbers of cases for which she is representing clients is a violation of client-attorney privilege, given that, if legal proceedings have been filed, it’s all public record. Moreover, the HIPAA complaint strikes me as spurious as well, because HIPAA has explicit exemption in it for legal investigations, particularly those by state medical boards. I’m pretty sure that investigations by state boards regulating lawyers and their conduct would be similarly exempt. Moreover, as Skewed Distribution observes, if you check out Finn’s website, you’ll see that she has claimed to have handled “several cases” where vaccines have caused clients injury, but the link goes to nowhere. All it says is “coming soon.” And, as discussed above in an article favorable to Finn by a bunch of conspiracy loons, the reason the committee is demanding this list of names and docket numbers is because they want to verify that she isn’t exaggerating or lying when she claims to have represented so many important cases.

Interestingly, in the very Infowars interview with Mike Adams in which she tries to defend herself, she basically almost admits that she’s played fast and loose with advertising, saying, “I’m being barred to admission to the Supreme Court because I’m accused of not stamping an envelope with ‘attorney advertising’ when it wasn’t even in my opinion an advertisement…” All of this is attributed by both Finn and Adams to what they call as the “Wakefield effect,” which they define as, “outrageous and illegal censorship and oppression dished out to anyone who takes a firm stand against the vaccine industry’s lies.” In actuality, I think Skewed Distribution gets it right when he notes:

Regarding the potential issues with advertising, the Rules of Professional Conduct for New York (8) state the following, which may or may not be of interest in this case.

Page 31. “A lawyer or law firm shall not use or disseminate or participate in the use or dissemination of any advertisement contains statements or claims that are false, deceptive or misleading”.

Arguably, this page violates that rule in that it represents as sources of reliable information on vaccines the website of the antivaccine group the National Vaccine Information Center. Remember, that’s Barbara Loe Fisher’s group, and, as I’ve documented ad nauseam right here on this very blog, not a reliable source of information. Just type “NVIC” into my blog’s search box if you don’t believe me. Skewed Distribution also notes:

Ms. Finn’s webpage goes on to state that, “Literature on vaccines is plentiful and it is hard to find neutral information”. No, it’s not hard at all. In fact, all one would need to do is log onto the CDC website.

Whether or not any of this is part of the committee’s equation in pursuing Patricia Finn, I don’t know. What I do know is that Finn is pursuing the tried and true crank technique of taking advantage of the confidentiality of professional investigations, such as legal misconduct panels’ investigations and state medical board investigations of quacks to tell only one side of the story, secure in the knowledge that these panels and boards by law can’t refute their spin. She’s also using another tried-and-true technique beloved of cranks. Basically, she’s crying “persecution” and painting her prosecution as the end result of a major conspiracy, rather than because she might have broken the law, or at the very least screwed up big time. In doing so, she’s rallying the antivaccine crankosphere around her, and this is, I believe, an intentional strategy. Not only does it have the advantage of casting her as the underdog, but it allows her to frame her prosecution as politically motivated and directed at trying to silence her “dangerous message.” I’ll conceded that her message is dangerous, but not for the reason she thinks. Finn thinks she’s threatening pharmaceutical companies and entrenched interests. What she’s really doing is endangering children.