Friday, April 18, 2008

Surgeon Could Lose License Over Sex With Patient

SAN DIEGO -- A prominent North County surgeon could be in trouble with the state medical board and learned he could lose his license.

Dr. Dennis Nigro is the subject of a hearing at the state building in which he is accused of having sex with a patient.

Nigro admitted to having a brief affair with a woman in 2003, but said she was no longer in his care during their relationship.

Nigro’s lawyer, medicare defense attorney Michael Khouri, said, “The woman does not believe Dr. Nigro was her doctor when the sex occurred.”

“There is documentation required to terminate relationship. It was not done in this case,” said Deputy Attorney General Mary Agnes Matyszewski.

An administrative law judge will issue a proposed decision that will be sent to the state medical board for final disposition.

Nigro’s license could be suspended if discipline is deemed necessary.

On the subject of the "worst five things a doctor can do," Steve Alexander provided the Investigation Team the list of the "worst five" and then commented on each individual item. There were no specific cases or doctors mentioned in the course of this interview. Among the items provided by Mr. Alexander as one of the "worst five things a doctor can do," was a sexual relationship between a doctor and his or her patient. Clearly, in reporting the allegations against Dr. Dennis Nigro there was no intention or effort to tie Alexander’s separate interview specifcally to the Dr. Dennis Nigro case.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Closing Arguments at 50-Shot NYPD Trial

Three detectives charged in a 50-shot barrage that killed an unarmed man on his wedding day were framed by street thugs, including two survivors seeking millions of dollars from the city, defense attorneys said Monday.

Prosecutors built their case on the unreliable testimony of friends of the victim, "a parade of convicted felons, crack dealers and men who were not strangers to weapons," James Culleton, a lawyer for one of the detectives, said in his closing argument.

Sean Bell, 23, was killed Nov. 25, 2006 - which would have been his wedding day - outside a bar where he had a bachelor party. Two friends with him in a car were wounded.

Detective Gescard Isnora fired 11 shots, Michael Oliver fired 31 times and Marc Cooper fired five times, all believing amid the chaos that they were under fire from the car, their lawyers said. Two other officers who fired were not charged.

Isnora and Oliver pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in what prosecutors have portrayed as a botched undercover operation by trigger-happy officers. Cooper pleaded not guilty to reckless endangerment.

Several friends of Bell who attended his party testified that police accounts of an argument outside the club, where police were investigating prostitution allegations, were exaggerated. Police say they overheard one of them, Joseph Guzman, say "Yo, go get my gun."

Defense attorney Paul Martin portrayed Guzman as "the catalyst of the event. He's the reason we're here today."

In grand jury testimony, Isnora said he followed Bell, Guzman and Trent Benefield to their car because he believed they were going to get a gun.

Guzman denied saying anything about a gun. He and Benefield, who both were wounded, also testified that they never heard the officers yell warnings before opening fire, and said they tried to drive away because they feared for their lives.

Isnora maintains he only resorted to deadly force after Bell bumped him with the car and smashed into an unmarked police van, and after he saw Guzman make a sudden move as though he were going for a gun.

"He used enormous restraint," a third defense attorney, Anthony Ricco, told the judge, who is hearing the case without a jury.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Court Won't Rehear Case Over Man's Military Lies

A divided 9th Circuit refused to rehear its dismissal of a judge's order for a Montana man to stand in front of a courthouse for 50 hours wearing a sandwich board that said, "I am a liar. I am not a Marine," after he lied to his probation officer about having served in the military.

Dissenting Judge Bea called defendant William "Cody" Horvath a "slippery customer, in more ways than one." After Horvath escaped from prison and was captured with a gun in his possession, he concocted a tale about serving in the U.S. Marine Corps and receiving a Purple Heart for a wound in Panama. His probation officer presented the whopper to the judge as a mitigating factor in Horvath's sentencing.

When the truth came out that Horvath "never served a minute in the Marines," he was indicted for lying to a judicial officer. He moved to dismiss the indictment, but later entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving the right to appeal.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, a veteran, rejected Horvath's motion and sentenced him to four months of electronic monitoring and four years probation. He also ordered Horvath to wear the sandwich board. The back was to say, "I have never served my country. I have dishonored veterans of all wars."

Horvath appealed on the ground that he had committed no crime, and the three-judge panel agreed. It found that statements made to a probation officer are exempt from prosecution, because the law requires the officer to present the defendant's statements to a judge.

The dissenting opinion argued that the exemption applies only to statements that a party or attorney makes directly "to a judge or magistrate."

Prosecutors unsuccessfully petitioned for a rehearing before a larger panel of the 9th Circuit.

Judges Pregerson and Graber voted to deny the petition for rehearing, while Judge Rymer voted to grant it. Judges Wardlaw, Gould and Paez concurred with the majority decision, and Judges Bea, Kozinski, O'Scannlain, Kleinfeld, Tallman, Bybee and Callahan dissented.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Large Law Firms Treat Minority Attorneys Better

Attorneys at larger law firms are more satisfied with the treatment of lawyers from diverse backgrounds than lawyers at smaller firms, according to a newly released survey (.pdf) by the Cuban American Bar Association.

The survey asked attorneys about compensation, promotions, the complexity and importance of work assignments and client contact opportunities based on diversity.

Based on the results of the survey, CABA was to recognize Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod among firms with 50 of more attorneys and Kenny Nachwalter among firms with 20 to 49 attorneys at a reception this past Thursday night.

The goal of the survey was to identify which firms have greater success in making diversity a priority, said Coral Gables, Fla., attorney Nelson Bellido. He is chair of CABA's diversity committee and a partner with Concepcion, Sexton & Martinez.

"This is going to allow the firms to identify and prioritize certain diversity goals," he said. "What CABA is doing is [asking law firms], 'Are you walking the walk, or are you just talking?'"

Respondents overall were highly positive about diversity prospects and achievements at their firms. Attorneys who expressed no opinion generally outscored attorneys expressing negative sentiments about their firms.

Overall, attorneys at large firms appeared to be more satisfied than attorneys at smaller firms with the state of diversity at their firms.

A bigger percentage of attorneys from large firms, 17 percent, felt they were treated differently because of race, gender or sexual orientation than the 12 percent at medium-size firms.

When it came to the issue of pay equity, lawyers from larger firms seemed more satisfied with minority lawyer compensation than those at smaller firms. About 67 percent of large firm lawyers agreed that minority lawyers were as likely to receive raises as nonminority lawyers compared with 63 percent at smaller firms.

The question generating some of the highest negatives in the survey asked if minority and nonminority attorneys have an equal chance at leadership roles. About 11 percent of respondents at large firms and 10 percent at smaller firms did not see a level playing field.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Facebook Creator Must Defend Copyright Claim

The 1st Circuit ruled that Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg must defend himself in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by former Harvard classmates who accused him of stealing computer code for the "spectacularly successful" social-networking Web site.

The decision reinstates a 2004 lawsuit filed by ConnectU Inc. founders Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, finding that the amended complaint contains a "viable hook on which federal jurisdiction can be hung."

The Winklevoss brothers and Narendra claimed they hatched the idea for Facebook as undergraduates in 2003, but lacked the programming expertise needed to make it work, so they recruited Zuckerberg to help them develop their "embryonic website."

The founders accused Zuckerberg of swiping their idea, business plan and unfinished source code and using them to secretly launch a competing social-networking site that ultimately became Facebook - now the nation's fifth most-visited Web site with more than 60 million users.

By the time the plaintiffs had launched their own site,, Zuckerberg's venture "had gotten an unbeatable head start in user traffic," the ruling states.
"Harvard's traditional school color is crimson, but the founders saw red," Judge Selya wrote. The founders filed state-law misappropriation claims against Zuckerberg, his associates and Facebook, but later registered a copyright for their source code and amended the complaint to add a federal copyright claim.

The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss on grounds that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the parties to the original complaint were not wholly diverse.

The appellate court rejected the claim that a second lawsuit filed by ConnectU in federal court rendered the appeal moot. It then concluded that the amended complaint, which had dropped any allusion to diversity jurisdiction, replaced the original complaint "lock, stock and barrel," meaning the lower court had federal jurisdiction over the case.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Walgreens Settles Race Bias Suits for $24.4 Million

Drugstore giant Walgreens will pay $24.4 million to 14 black management employees to settle race discrimination claims in two consolidated lawsuits in Illinois.

Walgreens denies any systemic discrimination and says it agreed to settle the case to avoid the expense of litigation.

The settlement covers all black employees who served as management trainees, executive assistant managers, store managers, pharmacists and pharmacy managers for any period between June 20, 2001, and March 24, 2008.

The plaintiffs and those who did not opt out of the suit will share $18.9 million from the settlement fund, and the $5.5 million balance will cover attorney fees.

The case began in 2005, when plaintiff John Tucker filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois over Walgreens' alleged racially discriminatory employment practices.

Tucker, who said his situation is typical of what the other plaintiffs faced, was a store manager in primarily black and low-income areas of Independence, Mo., according to the suit.

His class-action complaint said the stress of working in stores with high customer volume and security and safety problems forced him to take disability leave after the company refused to reassign him.

Although Tucker initially was accepted into the company's "emerging leaders" program in 2002, he was removed from the program because he had no college degree and was not taking classes to obtain one, the suit said.

However, he said Walgreens knew when it accepted him into the program that he had no degree and was not taking classes.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed its own lawsuit against the chain in March 2007, alleging that Walgreens engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against black management trainees, managers and pharmacists in violation of federal civil rights law.

The EEOC's claims essentially mirrored those in the 2005 complaint, which Tucker filed on behalf of black employees working in 4,700 stores in 44 states.

Most were placed in the most difficult stores and forced to deal with sagging profits, crime and other problems, according to the suit.

Both actions were consolidated in May 2007, with the court joining 13 of the EEOC plaintiffs into Tucker's case.

The settlement requires Walgreens to provide antidiscrimination training for all upper-management employees and to ensure their compliance with the company's policies for maintaining a "diverse work environment free from unlawful discrimination," the agreement says.

It does not cover a retaliation claim Tucker filed with the EEOC in October 2006.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cage settles libel suit against Turner

Nicolas Cage has settled a libel suit in a London court against Kathleen Turner, who claimed in her autobiography that he had twice been arrested for drunken driving and had stolen a dog.Actress Kathleen Turner's claims about her onetime co-star drew a libel lawsuit in Britain's High Court.

Neither of the stars attended the hearing at Britain's High Court, where Turner's lawyer, her book publisher and the Daily Mail, which ran an excerpt, all apologized to Cage and offered to make a substantial donation to a charity of his choice.

Cage's lawyer Simon Smith dismissed as "utter falsity" a section of Turner's book "Send Yourself Roses" describing the actors' experience on the set of the movie "Peggy Sue Got Married" in 1986.

In the passage, Turner, 53, said her co-star, 44, was "arrested twice for drunk-driving and, I think, for stealing a dog. He'd come across a Chihuahua he liked and stuck it in his jacket."

Turner, Headline Publishing Group and Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers now accept that, owing to a mistake on Turner's part and despite the other defendants' publishing in good faith, the allegations were defamatory and false, Smith said.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Know Your Lawyer in Illinois

The demands of society to protect personal and property rights of all persons have resulted in an increasingly complex system of laws. Long ago it became necessary for some to devote themselves to study and knowledge of the law so the majority could be advised of their rights and obligations. The lawyers in your community perform this service.

Who Can Practice Law?

Only one who has a license to practice law in Illinois may do so.

The preparation for such a license and legal practice requires a great deal of time, hard work and expense. The licensed lawyer must graduate from an accredited law school and thereafter must pass the Illinois State Bar examination, a rigid test of knowledge in all fields of law. Finally, he or she must submit to an examination of personal character and fitness to practice law before being admitted to the bar. When Do You Need A Lawyer?

The person who is accused of a crime or is sued for damages in a civil suit usually becomes acutely aware of the need for professional legal help. But legal assistance is highly desirable and often indispensable in many other situations in life which may have nothing to do with crime or a court action. Some of these situations are:

When Your Status Changes -- Coming of age, marriage, the birth or adoption of children and moving to a different state may result in new or different legal and personal responsibilities. Such may also require changes in the way you conduct your business or financial affairs. Your lawyer can help you plan for and meet such obligations, including the preparation of various legal documents which may be required.

When You Make Or Revise A Will -- The planning and drafting of your Will is an important legal matter. In drafting your Will, your lawyer can plan your estate in a way that will be most beneficial to you and to those for whom you wish to provide and your lawyer can suggest proper methods whereby substantial savings in taxes and other estate costs may be realized.

When You Buy Or Sell Real Estate -- Whenever you buy or sell real estate, you should have legal counsel. A real estate broker may be most helpful in putting the transaction together, but legally may not prepare certain legal documents necessary to the transaction, nor may the broker give legal advice as is often needed. There are potential legal pitfalls in the buying or selling of any real estate which can be avoided only by one with knowledge of the laws relating to real estate, taxes, insurance, contracts and other related subjects. Your lawyer can protect your against such pitfalls.

When You Enter Into Any Contract -- Any agreement, oral or written, which involves a consideration -- that is, the exchange of something of value in return for some goods or service rendered -- may be binding and enforceable. As a general rule, oral agreements should be avoided and written agreements should be either prepared by or examined by a lawyer on your behalf before being signed by you. You should consult with him or her regarding any agreement, particularly one representing a major financial obligation, before being entered into by you.

When You Are Involved In An Accident -- If you are involved in an accident of any kind resulting in personal injury or property damage you should consult with your lawyer. He or she can help you protect your rights and should be contacted immediately in order that such action may be taken quickly. In addition, you should notify your casualty insurance company immediately.

Whenever Your Rights Are Threatened -- The law exists to protect your rights, but often you must take definite action to make those laws work for you. Your lawyer is prepared to protect and enforce your rights under the law in all your personal or business affairs.

Plans to drop case on hold; Prosecutor to evaluate

Instead of dropping the armed robbery case against Elton Phillips, the Louisiana attorney general's office on Monday asked Criminal District Court Judge Dennis Waldron for a week to consider possible new evidence against the suspect, accused of a gas station stick-up. Phillips' case became high-profile after it came to light he had left the gas station and gone straight to the home of then-Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan, whose girlfriend knew Phillips. On Monday, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Derbes said he needs the time to examine footage that aired on WDSU on Thursday, the night he announced he would drop the case because of contradictory witness testimony.

The television news report quoted Carolyn Jackson, describing her as Phillips' aunt, who said the 20-year-old defendant confessed the robbery to her. During the broadcast, she said she had prayed with Phillips and he confessed. "I said, 'You need to pray, you need to confess. I need to agree with you,' " Jackson told Travers Mackel with WDSU, according to the clip on the station's Web site. "He took my hand, he held his head down and he said, 'Lord, I am sorry for what I've done.' " "I said, 'Uh uh, you have to say what you've done,' " Jackson continued. "He said, 'I'm sorry for robbing.' And he asked God to forgive him." Jackson, however, told a different story when she was briefly called to the stand by defense attorney John Thomas during the short hearing.

Thomas asked Jackson, "Did he confess?" She replied, "No, sir, he did not." Under cross examination by Derbes, Jackson said that she isn't Phillips' aunt -- in fact isn't related to him at all. Phillips confessed only to "doing wrong" in general while they were praying, she added. Jackson said she drove from her home in Hammond to New Orleans for the TV interview so she could talk to the public about the importance of prayer. Waldron granted the request for a continuance, asking Jackson and the attorneys to return to Criminal District Court next Monday, when they would decide whether to proceed with a trial. Jackson at times appeared distraught by the repercussions of her statement, dropping to her knees outside the courthouse to ask that Phillips' family forgive her.

Derbes had been prepared to drop the case against Phillips because of contradictory statements made by the chief witnesses in the case: robbery victim Roy Joseph and his girlfriend. The Louisiana attorney general's office is handling the case because of the connection to Jordan and the conflict of interest that represents. The case against Phillips ended up having some problems. Neither Joseph nor his girlfriend could identify Phillips as the man who on Oct. 11 robbed Joseph at a gas station in Algiers, taking $800, a white metal chain and a cell phone. The armed robbery charge against Phillips took on prominence because Phillips allegedly left the gas station in a Dodge Avenger, which Joseph followed in his Hummer H2, eventually ramming the fleeing car. Police documents said that Phillips got out of the vehicle and ran on foot to the Algiers home of Jordan and Cherylynn Robinson, the former DA's live-in girlfriend. Both Jordan and Robinson talked to Phillips before he left their house.

They were expected to testify at the trial. Jordan left office about a week after the incident became public, but said it did not play a part in his decision to resign with more than a year left in his term. After the Monday court hearing, Thomas, the defense attorney representing Phillips, questioned why the prosecutor needed a week to consider Jackson's statements, calling them just as problematic as the potential testimony of the robbery victim and his girlfriend. "She is not the aunt like she claimed to be, and she never got a confession," Thomas said.

But Derbes, speaking with reporters after the hearing, said the attorney general's office also has questions about statements made by Phillips' mother, Kim Wicker, to WDSU that her son had been prepared to deal with the consequences of his behavior. Wicker also said that her son did not confess to committing the robbery, adding that she never asked him that question. Still, Derbes said the interview was troubling. "Why was he ready to face consequences?" Derbes asked. Thomas said that Phillips' mother was speaking more in a spiritual sense about her son. Phillips will remain locked up at the Orleans Parish jail until attorneys resolve the case.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Does my law firm need online marketing?

Of course it does. There is no doubt about it. Internet Legal Marketing allows attorneys to reach prospective clients far beyond the reach of traditional marketing or networking activities. Online marketing allows you to network with people you would not come into direct contact otherwise. Having multimedia content and blogging communities give your firm exposure that it just can't match in any other media for the price.

What does Internet Legal Marketing include? Our Internet Legal Marketing strategies encompass many different aspects of online marketing including search engine optimization, pay per click advertising, blogs and pod casting. These elements, combined with a state of the art website, will dramatically increase traffic to your site and your overall exposure on the web.Search engine optimization (SEO) is the most crucial ingredient of your Internet legal marketing strategy, pushing your firms' ranking in your specific practice areas into the top of the major search engine sites. SEO involves minor alterations to your website, selecting keywords that will generate targeted traffic, continually researching search engine algorithms and policies, and most importantly understanding your goals. Our proven marketing strategies and search engine optimization expertise will give you an effective and results-driven presence on the web.

Pay per click advertising is also an effective way to reach potential clients, utilizing the same keyword targeted searching techniques on a pay per lead basis. PPC creates the opportunity to ensure placement of your ad without necessarily investing a large amount of your marketing dollar, making PPC an extremely attractive option and one that your firm should not ignore as a potential marketing technique. Having a law blog or blawg is another excellent marketing tool for you and your firm. Your blawg is a database-driven tool that not only allows your firm to establish itself as a reliable, helpful authority on particular legal subject matters online, while also significantly elevating your search engine rankings. 14.8 million adults in the US downloaded an audio or video pod cast in the last month. Pod casting is one of the fastest growing technologies today, it allows for potential clients to download your multimedia content in a portable format that can be listened to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.. This is a great way to increase awareness for your firm while capitalizing on this new media format. can act as your online publicist bringing all of these techniques together creating a powerful marketing tool that can significantly enhance your web presence. Call us and find out what Internet Legal Marketing can do for you.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

FBI: Combs/Shakur Documents Appear Fake

Papers purporting to be FBI reports linking associates of music mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs to a 1994 attack on rapper Tupac Shakur appear to be fakes, the agency said Friday. The documents had been cited in recent Los Angeles Times and Associated Press stories.

James Sabatino, a convicted con man who is serving a federal prison sentence for fraud, filed the documents last fall in Miami federal court as part of a $19 million lawsuit against Combs, claiming Combs never paid him for arranging a recording and video session by the late Notorious B.I.G.The documents purported to be an FBI agent's reports on interviews conducted in 2002 of confidential informants linking Sabatino and associates of Combs to the 1994 shooting of Shakur in New York City. The shooting triggered a feud between East and West Coast rappers that later led to the killings of Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. None of the shootings have been solved.

"We have no record of these documents in our system," Agent Stephen Kodak said. "They don't appear to be legitimate." He said no decision has been made on whether to investigate the documents and their origin.

The Web site The Smoking Gun first reported this week that the documents appeared to be fakes. The reports were written on a typewriter, not a computer, and contained misspellings identical to ones Sabatino made in other documents, its report pointed out.

Sabatino, 31, has a long history of falsely claiming to be a major player in the rap industry and perpetrating other frauds. He is currently serving an 11-year sentence for identity theft and fraud at a federal prison in Pennsylvania. His father once said in a letter to a judge that his son "is a disturbed young man who needed attention like a drug."

Howard L. Weitzman, Combs' attorney, said his client and Sabatino never had a business relationship.

"It should be clear that Mr. Sabatino has a vivid imagination, to say the least, and his credibility quotient is zero," Weitzman said in an e-mail.

Sabatino's lawsuit against Combs remains pending. No trial date has been set.

DOJ Asks High Court Review on Navy Sonar

The Justice Department on Monday asked the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals court decision limiting the Navy's use of sonar off the Southern California coast because of potential harm to dolphins and whales.

The Justice Department petition argues that the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco jeopardizes the Navy's ability to train sailors and Marines for service in wartime.

The agency also contends that national security interests can trump those of marine mammals, and that its use of mid-frequency sonar in training exercises hasn't caused any documented harm to dolphins or beaked whales in the waters where they're conducted.

"We believe that this is an issue that is absolutely essential to national security and that a Supreme Court review of this case is warranted," said Cmdr. Jeff Davis, a Navy spokesman. He said sonar was the only way to detect quiet diesel electric submarines used by potential adversaries. The Navy has argued the restrictions could possibly prevent certification of some naval strike groups preparing to deploy to the Persian Gulf.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which sued the Navy over the issue, contends that exposing dolphins and beaked whales to sonar can hurt them by disrupting their feeding and mating patterns and, in the worst case, can kill them by causing them to beach themselves.
NRDC attorney Cara Horowitz noted that lower courts had concluded there would be near certain harm to marine life in Southern California if the Navy went ahead with sonar exercises as planned. The appellate court said the Navy has estimated that its Southern California exercises would expose more than 500 beaked whales to harassment and would result in temporary hearing loss to thousands of marine mammals.

"That's why in our view it's critical the Navy take all reasonable steps to minimize harm to marine life as the lower courts ordered," Horowitz said. "We expected the Navy to seek review in the Supreme Court but we'd be surprised if the court agrees to take the case."

Government Concedes Vaccine Injury Case

Government health officials have conceded that childhood vaccines worsened a rare, underlying disorder that ultimately led to autism-like symptoms in a Georgia girl, and that she should be paid from a federal vaccine-injury fund.

Medical and legal experts say the narrow wording and circumstances probably make the case an exception — not a precedent for thousands of other pending claims.

The government "has not conceded that vaccines cause autism," said Linda Renzi, the lawyer representing federal officials, who have consistently maintained that childhood shots are safe.
However, parents and advocates for autistic children see the case as a victory that may help certain others. Although the science on this is very limited, the girl's disorder may be more common in autistic children than in healthy ones.

"It's a beginning," said Kevin Conway, a Boston lawyer representing more than 1,200 families with vaccine injury claims. "Each case is going to have to be proved on its individual merits. But it shows to me that the government has conceded that it's biologically plausible for a vaccine to cause these injuries. They've never done it before."

A lawyer for the 9-year-old girl has scheduled a news conference in Atlanta on Thursday. Her parents have declined to comment in the meantime because the case is not final and the payment amount has not been set.

Nearly 5,000 families are seeking compensation for autism or other developmental disabilities they blame on vaccines and a mercury-based preservative, thimerosal. It once was commonly used to prevent bacterial contamination but since 2001 has been used only in certain flu shots. Some cases contend that the cumulative effect of many shots given at once may have caused injuries.

The cases are before a special "vaccine court" that doles out cash from a fund Congress set up to pay people injured by vaccines and to protect makers from damages as a way to help ensure an adequate vaccine supply. The burden of proof is lighter than in a traditional court, and is based on a preponderance of evidence. Since the fund started in 1988, it has paid roughly 950 claims — none for autism.

Studies repeatedly have discounted any link between thimerosal and autism, but legal challenges continue. The issue even cropped up in the presidential campaign, with Republican John McCain asserting on Friday that "there's strong evidence" autism is connected to the preservative.