Talk:Autism omnibus trial/Archive1

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Attorney fees?[edit]

I know you're still building this, so everything is subject to change, but I'm not terribly fond of this wording: "This firm is now representing hundreds of these families and is probably really looking forward to getting some of that $2.5 billion stashed away by the government." It sounds entirely too close to what Roger Schlafly wanted to tar the ACLU with over the textbook sticker issue, so it opens the article up to a distracting debate at best. That is of course, unless there are sources to show that they actually are due for a significant share, that's another matter. --Kels 17:48, 27 June 2007 (CDT)

Without knowing specifics of this case, there likely is a significant difference. In Selman v. Cobb County School Board (and most similar ACLU lawsuits), the only relief sought was injunctive, that is a court order forbidding the objectionable behavior (sometimes for technical and strategic reasons, minimal monetary damages (typically $1, as in Kitzmiller) are sought as well). Any monetary payment to the lawyers is based on a court-assessed reasonable hourly fee and their actual documented time & expenses. In many personal injury lawsuits (which the autism suits may be an example of), the primary relief sought is monetary, and the lawyers are paid a percentage (typically 1/3) of the damages collected. --jtltalk 17:59, 27 June 2007 (CDT)
I wouldn't be surprised if the attorneys involved were looking forward to a big settlement, which is what the statement implies. However, it is easy to misread it to say that the families are looking forward to a windfall, and I think that would be an unfortunate characterization. May want to reword.--PalMD-yada yada 18:01, 27 June 2007 (CDT)
If it's not pro bono, usually the lawyers get 1/3 of the settlement. It ought to be easy to find out if they are getting paid if they win. humanbe in 00:52, 11 July 2007 (CDT)


attempting to find some evidence, any evidence, to support the causal link they claim.

I don't know the details of the trial, but I assume the above is alluding to pre-trial discovery, something that occurs in most if not all civil suits. Given the phrasing above, this looks more like an opinion peice than an objective work.

To be clear, I don't care if you change it, but offer this only if you want to dress the opinion piece up to be appear more objective (as does the liberal media). HeartGold tx 00:34, 11 July 2007 (CDT)

It's actually an accurate description of the facts. The plaintiffs have spent years searching for evidence - any evidence - to back up their claims since filing them. I'll try to make T. dig up a cite for it if you really have a problem with the wording. Did you read the article? By the way, what liberal media? humanbe in 00:50, 11 July 2007 (CDT)
But this is standard operating procedure in civil trials. See RIAA lawsuits, for example. Many lawsuits are fishing expiditions with some circumstantial cause of action later substantiated during discovery (assuming there is no paper shredding party). HeartGold tx 00:55, 11 July 2007 (CDT)
This was a 5-6 year long delay, thats not standard discovery period, thats a HUGE delay, and it was not discovery evidence they sought but evidence from science. Their main evidence from the Wakefield study had just been shredded, so they have been delaying hoping that a new study will find some link somewhere. The best they got was the O'Leary lab results and this strange theory of mercury-immune poisoning-mmr-measle infection-autism.
As far as objectivity thats not really what we are going for, check out RationalWiki:Project Whitewash/What is a RationalWiki article.
And welcome back! 10:48, 11 July 2007 (CDT)

Vaccine tax story doesn't line up with my recollection[edit]

During the eighties there was rising concern over the potential liability for vaccine producers. In order to "streamline" any such issues the U.S. Congress established a fund that would be created by charging an extra $0.75 tax on each vaccine.

Initially, the fee varied by vaccine, in accordence with the risk of each vaccine, if my memory is correct. It was later changed to an accross the board flat fee per vaccine, in part to mask the relative differences in risk among the "mandatory" vaccines. Well, of course, I don't have enough interest to support the assertion "in part to", so I will offer as an alternative, "with the consequence that the relative differences in risk among the sundry "mandatory" vaccines was masked. In any event, point being, the fee did not start out flat (although the specific law mentioned might have been flat from first day it became effective). Issue is more complicated than portrayed in this article. HeartGoldTeach me about your father Satan 13:59, 15 July 2007 (CDT)

Science or Law?[edit]

This is a decent synopsis of the first Autism Omnibus hearings and makes some good points about the rubbish nature of the claimants' case and their less than credible "experts".

But I disagree strongly with the author's statement that: "One problem is that this case is before a court and therefore will be decided not by the standards of science, but by the standards of the law, as viewed by three non-scientists. While the evidence is clear that the plaintiffs have no case, how that ultimately gets translated through the "special masters" remains to be seen."

The fact that the courts have been presented with this case does not reflect any discredit to them. The Special Masters have proved to be highly knowledgeable and some of their questioning of the "experts" was very incisive. In the Kitzmiller trial in Dover, before an ordinary court, the judge proved very adept in analysing the evidence. In other trials and in the Autism Omnibus, the courts have used very clear and effective guidelines in assessing and evaluating the testimony of expert witnesses.

Courts are designed to make fair and accurate decisions (that's not to say they succeed always!), the world of science is not, with its cacophony of voices. The courts do have formal and agreed standards to make decisions; science does not. Scientists regularly "fly kites" with the most amazing nonsense to get a bit of publicity.

And science clearly cannot keep its own house in order; the claimants' experts were less than frank, less than honest, but the world of science just lets them get on with it.

So far, I don't think the US courts have put a foot wrong in recent science v. anti-science hearings. They have done their job of extracting the truth from opposing views and making good judgements, and they have explained and justified those decisions clearly.

The problem people are the irrational denialists. The courts are not part of the problem. It would be better if they did not have to be part of the solution, but someone has to sort this mess out, and they're the people to do it if the government is not going to legislate.

So please, identify the target. It's not the courts, not until they start making poor decisions. 06:06, 23 April 2008 (EDT)

It's not worth it's own talk point, but I agree with the above - the article is written as though it's attacking the legal system, which is extremely narrow minded and smacks of hypocrisy on a rational site. Courts get it wrong and should be held to account when they do so but attacking the process of legally determining fault is at best counter productive and at worst smacks of bias. The article should be rewritten from a more neutral PoV.

But the way the legal system makes decisions is a problem. What a court of law decides often has more of a real world effect than any consensus within the scientific community can have. The fifty percent and a feather is a problem, it is not a good method for arriving at our best approximation of truth. We have a method to do that, it's called the scientific method, peer review and consensus building. When a consensus is reached within the scientific community a court of law shouldn't even have to decide. The reason they do have to make a new decision is because the standards are very different, and that is a problem. tmtoulouse beset 00:54, 10 June 2008 (EDT)
CAn I interject and point out that RW does not have a "neutral point of view", end of argument?
I am a rational person (or at least I try to be) and I have a good understanding of the US legal system. The courts exist to resolve disputes. While there are **serious** problems with the entire system, I have to disagree with the assertion that "legal evidence" is used instead of "scientific evidence." The courts are supposed to weigh ALL currently-available evidence to reach a decision. I also note that the notion of "preponderance of evidence" -- a legal concept that means more likely than not (or 50% and a feather) -- is not what legal evidence means.

Reasonable minds can differ on what the level of proof should be in civil trial. 50%+ is used because one side will be hurt regardless, and it seems fair to apportion the blame and responsibility on the party who is more likely than not at fault. Note that this is somewhat comparable to "I'm not sure that the defendant is at fault, but I think so."; we are talking about "mere" money here. Compare to a criminal trial when someone's freedom is at risk. Because of the more-extreme consequences involved, the burden of proof must be far higher. The fact finder in this case should say, "I am am *sure* that the defendant did it, and I don't think that there is any reasonable explanation to doubt this." I am restating "beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty."

Note here that not guilty does not necessarily mean innocent and exonerated as many will claim. That may be the case in some situations, but the better way to look at it is to think "not proven." Guilty people sometimes walk, particularly when the state's case isn't that good (or if the defendant has money for a legal team.) This comports to our notions of fairness because depriving someone of freedom shouldn't happen because a jury is "pretty sure" of guilt. It should only happen when there is no reasonable doubt. The innocent also wind up convicted because they cannot afford good representation, and draw one of the incompetent public defenders.

Courts use scientific evidence, but not to the exclusion of other evidence. This is been the case for a long time. A hypothetical example would be a drop of blood which came from the rapist; let's say that the victim smacked her attacker, and he bled on her clothes. Even before DNA use in the courts, if the blood is from a B- man, but the defendant is A+, the defendant in excluded. If the blood types match, that is a bit of evidence that can factor into a decision of guilty.

Please note that this is an idealized view of how things are supposed to work. In practice, they don't. But still, the idea of 50%+ a feather being "legal evidence" rather than scientific evidence is not accurate.

cover story[edit]

(please do not archive this section)

  • SusanG - nominated it, so probably "yes"
  • I think it's good, so I vote yes as well. humanUser talk:Human 12:40, 29 January 2008 (EST)
  • I too think this article is "front page material." It's a great science/politics mix (not the actual event, I mean, but the way the article presents the issue). It's a controversial (to some) issue presented in an accessible, but not condescending (to the reader, at least), way. -Arcan 11:37, 21 March 2008 (EDT)
Barring any future negative comments, I'm a gonna include it now. humanUser talk:Human 14:02, 21 March 2008 (EDT)

Jeni Barnett & Bad Science[edit]

"Bad science" recently reviewd the above Actress/Mother/talk show host's prog. She responds with "la la la can't hear you" and gets a comment #24) from WHALE TO! Why am I not surprised that such people crawl out of the woodwork.? Toast s.png (Toast) and marmalade 16:14, 5 February 2009 (EST)

My second comment on the blog hasn't passed scrutiny after 1/2 an hour. Could it be anything to do with my including RW as a ref? Toast s.png (Toast) and marmalade 16:51, 5 February 2009 (EST)