Chilling Her Softly

The secret silencing of a pain treatment activist

By publicly defending Stephen and Linda Schneider, a Kansas doctor and nurse accused of running a "pill mill," pain treatment activist Siobhan Reynolds irked the prosecutor assigned to the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway was so annoyed that in April 2008 she sought a court order telling Reynolds to shut up. Concluding that such an order would be an unconstitutional prior restraint of speech, U.S. District Judge Monti Belot said no.

But by the time Belot sentenced the Schneiders last month, he was so irritated by Reynolds' advocacy on behalf of the couple that he could not contain himself. He said he hoped the harsh sentences—three decades each—would "curtail or stop the activities of the Bozo the Clown outfit known as the Pain [Relief] Network, a ship of fools if there ever was one."

Reynolds, who founded the Pain Relief Network (PRN) in 2003 to highlight the chilling effect of drug law enforcement on the practice of medicine, evidently has a talent for getting under the skin of people in power. But that is not a crime. By treating it as such, Treadway has used grand jury secrecy to cloak an unconstitutional vendetta.

After Treadway failed to obtain a gag order silencing Reynolds, she instigated a grand jury investigation of her for obstruction of justice, obtaining subpoenas that demanded material related to PRN's activism, including its finances, media strategy, and organizational techniques. Among other things, the subpoenas covered communications with the Schneiders, their lawyers, and their patients; a PRN video about the conflict between drug control and pain control; and records regarding a PRN-sponsored billboard in Wichita that proclaimed "Dr. Schneider never killed anyone."

Reynolds unsuccessfully challenged Treadway's fishing expedition on First Amendment grounds in U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and this week the Supreme Court declined to hear her appeal. Perhaps the Court was impressed by the 10th Circuit's reasoning. We can't judge for ourselves, because the appeals court's decision is sealed, like almost every other document related to Reynolds' case.

The extraordinary secrecy is far broader than necessary to protect the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings, extending even to a friend-of-the-court brief, based entirely on publicly available information, that was filed last December by the Institute for Justice and my employer, the Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason magazine). Furthermore, one of the main justifications for grand jury secrecy—that it protects innocent people who are investigated but never charged—does not apply in a case like this, where the target of the investigation wants transparency and the government is trying to hide what it's doing.

In a brief supporting Reynolds' Supreme Court petition, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press questioned the 10th Circuit's decision to "order the complete sealing of a record in which the facts are already publicly known and the traditional grounds for secrecy carry no force." It also urged the Court to clarify the limits that the First Amendment imposes on grand jury subpoenas and the standards for distinguishing a "good faith" investigation from a vindictive campaign of intimidation.

"A strong case can be made that the government tried to silence Siobhan Reynolds' speech not because it suspected her of any criminal wrongdoing but because the prosecution found her troublesome," the group said. "The government should not be able to frighten citizens into refraining from exercising their First Amendment rights of expression, advocacy and association by threatening them with compulsory process—at least not without first satisfying a heightened standard of scrutiny."

Reynolds, who resisted the subpoenas until contempt-of-court fines exhausted her resources and left her organization "in ruins," says "the Supreme Court has decided to participate in the establishment of secret courts that fleece and abuse dissenters at the whim of a disgruntled prosecutor."  Such abuse of the grand jury process turns what is supposed to be a bulwark against arbitrary government power into an instrument of repression.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Chlorophyllite||

    I am shocked, shocked!

  • Sarcasmo 2000™||

    Such abuse of the grand jury process turns what is supposed to be a bulwark against arbitrary government power into an instrument of repression.

    Yeah, but have you heard? There's going to be a Royal Wedding®!

  • Woodrow Hyacinth-Smith||

    bread and circuses!

  • ||

    It's not royal unless the Stuart claimant is getting married.

  • Sarcasmo 2000™||

    They managed to find a 29-year-old British virgin. That's close enough.

  • ||

    I can't believe that.

  • ||

    Stuarts? Pah! Those upstart usurpers! It's not properly royal unless the True Kings, the Merovingians, are involved.

  • ||

    If it's not Scottish, it's crap! [reaches for claymore]

  • ||

    True, we should toast the cleverness of those French conquerors.

    To Norman Wisdom!

  • Cyto||

    This article is thin gruel for those of us waiting to learn exactly what the court's justification is for allowing the government's actions. I suppose that's the point of the decision though....

  • Zeke Hyle||

    WikiLeaks. Someone needs to make it happen.

  • ||

    I think you mean MilitaryLeaks. Has this website released ANYTHING in the last year that is not military related?

  • Zeke Hyle||

    Of course. Corporations aren't evil, only governments. The US Military, not corporations, were responsible for 31 civilian deaths every day in Iraq over the course of 6 years.

    Also:

    Behold the unborn fetus
    and weep salt tears crocodilian,
    All life is sacred--save, of course--
    an enemy civilian.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    You might want to honestly contemplate the morals of war before spotting off such nonsense.

  • defeatedcreek||

    Suffering confers wisdom. The DEA and courts are just looking out for our own good here.

  • MNG||

    One of the issues that first drew me to Reason magazine and libertarianism was the excellent analysis of how the drug war was causing doctors to err on the side of pain when it came to pain relief, and causing them to do so under the pain of prosecution. It's an awful thing. In a civilized society we would err on the other side (but they might be "high" oh noes!). Kudos for Sullum et al for keeping up this fight that neither of the "big two" seem to give a damn about.

  • Steve||

    In my experience (and I have some) there seems to be 2 kinds of these pain doctors: the ones who view every patient as nothing more than an addict begging for the next high, or they are pill-pushers who hand the stuff out like candy.

    This experience has made me an even stronger proponent of drug decriminalization.

  • ||

    The 2 kinds of pain are the kind that I feel and the kind that you feel.

  • ||

    Yours are unimportant.

  • BakedPenguin||

    As I read these articles, I really try not to wish that Judge Belot and Treadway come down with bone cancer or some other horribly painful disease that not even opioid painkillers could be effective against.

    But I can't stop wishing it. I think it was Beaumarcheais who said "we are all strong enough to bear the pain of others." And for some people, that pain won't be real until they face it themselves.

  • Red||

    In other words, almost die in a fire?

  • sarcasmic||

    You say that as if there is no double standard with regards to proles having access to pain medication and party members having access to the same medication.

  • ||

    Exactly. Belot and Treadway would ignore the law the same as they have ignored it here. They know what is best for us. Bow down.

  • West Texas||

    This is scary stuff, especially the secrecy. Welcome to the Truth Ministry.

    Seriously, where's the fucking transparency? Let the prosecutor and the judge go on their witch hunt, but at least make them justify themselves to the higher courts.

  • smartass sob||

    Apparently the very highest court doesn't give a damn.

  • the very highest court||

    Next stop, in the slam.

  • Rich||

    The extraordinary secrecy is ... extending even to a friend-of-the-court brief, based entirely on publicly available information, that was filed last December by ... the Reason Foundation

    Jacob, what would happen if someone were to point us to this "publicly available information"? I mean, of course, without saying it was the basis for a secret friend-of-the-court brief?

  • ||

    One lesson from this fracas is that any time you file an amicus brief, you should publish it simultaneously on a non-US site.

    -jcr

  • ||

    wikileaks that shit

  • murder_city||

    another great reason to stop being a medical practitioner...besides ObamaCare!

    on one side federal agencies are castigating physicians for NOT providing effective pain control to patients and have come out with extensive guidelines over the past 20 years. Better to medicate them with prescription narcotics than leave them to their own devices, e.g. patients taking 6 or 8 aspirin, tylenol, naproxen, etc. at a time. Or frequent ER visits. Or buying narcs on the street.

    On the other side is the DEA who go so far as to track the number of narcotic scrips written by MD's. A friend of mine even had a home visit by a DEA agent to see if the patient was a real person...a bedbound 85 year old lady with terminal cancer on a high dose of Dilaudid.

    One hand of the bureaucracy doesn't know(or care) what the other hand is doing and the rest of us get caught in the middle!

  • America||

    But what if my kids get addicted to narcotics?

  • Prison Guard||

    Don't worry. I'll take care of 'em.

  • Wind Rider||

    Yet another reason I sincerely hope that Harry Anslinger stands in for Hitler getting the pineapple up the ass on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

  • Satan||

    We call them "Twofer Tusedays". You get TWO pineapples shove up the ass, with all the fixin's and a medium soft drink.

    Hitler loves it. Anslinger, not so much.

  • Barney The Frank||

    I call it the pineapple express.

  • O The Bama||

    another shovel ready job

  • ||

    Minor Snag: Satan was getting creative, and now Anslinger's head is permanently wedged in Hitler's rectum. Now he has to attach the pineapple to a pole and run it through both of them like a pipe cleaner.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Now THAT would be on the road to a fitting punishment for both men.

    Yes, folks, I'm putting Hitler and Anslinger in the "just about as evil" category, with about a curly pube-width of difference between the two. I think it's justified.

  • AlanS||

    The government killed way more people at Waco than the Schneiders did.

  • ||

    But what if my kids get addicted to narcotics?

    We'll make sure they go to jail.

    Feel better now?

  • police k9 unit||

    And we'll kill their dogs when we raid their house.

  • ||

    And courtesy of the DEA and all moral Americans we'll make our best effort to do it at some godawful hour prompting your bewildered, sleep-ridden kid to grab a gun because he thinks he's defending against robbers. But don't worry: we'll try to shoot back as best we can, and failling that optimal solution we'll try the next best thing to outright execution: charge your kid with (attempted or actual) murder and put him away forever.

    As you must emphatically know we don't want your kid to get ADDICTED! Addiction is DANGEROUS y'know.

  • ||

    We live in such a sadomasochistic society. They make it almost as though pain relief is ungodly. Then again, many Americans do worship an idol of a guy nailed to a piece of lumber.

  • ||

    Brian from Texas, pain relief IS ungodly.

    Suffering is a sacrament that brings one closer to god. That is the paramount theme throughout Christian mythology, climaxing, as you point out, in the crucifixion of its prophet. The road to salvation is paved with pain and suffering. To be like the prophet, to be one with the prophet, one must suffer.

    Christianity's obsession with and sanctification of suffering is one of its more despicable attributes.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    I keep hearing this put out there, but see no real proof that the current national idiocy.. er um... policy against pain medication is linked directly to religious beliefs.

    You might be able to contend that our culture is rooted to this somehow, but just because 90% of the country claims to be Christian doesn't mean most of them actually are (by which I mean most who claim religion don't actually follow most of the basic principles including "do unto others" & going to church).

    & obviously, when you start talking about very fundamentalist type issues, such as pain being a good thing, I would venture to say the vast majority of them disagree and readily take pain killers, OTC, illegal, and prescribed whenever they feel like they need them.

    I think others hit the nail on the head, that this is about some moral fear/aversion to people being "high" than much else. Explains why the theoretically religious party and the theoretically non-religious party agree in lockstep that the war on drugs must continue and must accelerate.

  • sarcasmic||

    On the one hand you've got DEA chasing people around for treating pain, and on the other hand you've got the state giving junkies a ride to the methadone clinic on the taxpayer's dime.

    They punish people who use these chemicals legally while rewarding those who do not.

    wtf?

  • Virginia||

    justice is a joke. law is a joke. courts are a joke.

  • Flavor Flav||

    Don't forget 911

  • Ice Cube||

    911 was an inside joke.

  • Ice-T||

    (deep voice) yeah.

  • ||

    Long ago I burned my hand on a rototiller muffler. The quick and easy solution? Go buy a 10 dollar bag of smack down on the street corner.

  • Hacha Cha||

    Here are links to the sealed amicus brief filed by Reason and the Institute for Justice:
    http://pdfcast.org/pdf/sealed-.....tivist-sio
    torrent: http://www.btscene.com/details.....Brief.html

  • ||

    Be careful Mr. Sullum, Jim Treacher has seen what can happen when you make a leftest administration feel threatened by exposure.

  • Jim Treacher||

    LO...L?

  • ||

    Grand juries have been abused in this way for a long time now. It's way past time to abolish them.

  • Boulderdash||

    Ken Kraska, lets not forget their initial purpose, though. They are like the rest of our country, rights and civil liberties.
    The Grand Jury Subpoena is an excellent idea, and like the first through the tenth amendment of our constitution, we should examine the prospect of using it. With it, I reckon even TT can be called in.

  • MagicBeans||

    My wife struggles with chronic, severe pain. Getting a Dr. with the balls to provide her with the meds she needs to function somewhat normally has been a real challenge. Fuck the DEA, fuck them up the ass with a rapid, angry skunk.

  • ||

    This. My mother has MS and deals with constant pain. Because of the DEA, she can't get doctors to give her meds that would actually work. Assholes.

  • Dr Big Al||

    To Magic Beans--after my suspension, even the pain specialists are in fear of losing their licenses.

  • ||

    Was it Shakespeare who suggested "...first kill all the lawyers..."?

    Perhaps that always remains an option when a State's Attorney abuses his power to destroy one's life and/or ability to live in freedom.

  • ||

    It's time for us all to stop being ignorant hypocrites and start being TRUE conservatives!

    Pragmatic libertarians (minimal-statists) and "true" Conservatives agree that many, if not most, of society's problems are caused by government usurping choices that could better be made by individuals and that government is just about the worst way of doing almost anything. Where libertarianism normally parts company with "fake" conservatism is over moral issues. But a true conservative would have no problem with agreeing, that what people do with their own bodies, and especially in the privacy of their own home, should be supremely their business, and that anything else would entail ignoring the basic tenet of limited government.

    Fake-Conservatism on the other hand has much in common with socialism; Both Leftists and Fake-Conservatives appear to harbor the belief that nature does not exist and that any human can be anything he wants to be, or can for the "greater good", be "re-educated" into being. Leftists therefore think little boys can be conditioned into preferring dolls over toy soldiers, and similarly Fake-conservatives believe that adults can be coerced into choosing alcohol over marijuana. A true conservative, just like a pragmatic libertarian, would immediately reject both ideas as nonsense.

    If you support prohibition then you are NOT a conservative.
    Conservative principles, quite clearly, ARE:

    1) Limited, locally controlled government.
    2) Individual liberty coupled with personal responsibility.
    3) Free enterprise.
    4) A strong national defense.
    5) Fiscal responsibility.

    Prohibition is actually an authoritarian War on the Constitution and all civic institutions of our great nation.

    It's all about the market and cost/benefit analysis. Whether any particular drug is good, bad, or otherwise is irrelevant! As long as there is demand for any mind altering substance, there will be supply; the end! The only affect prohibiting it has is to drive the price up, increase the costs and profits, and where there is illegal profit to be made criminals and terrorists thrive.

    The cost of criminalizing citizens who are using substances no more harmful than similar things that are perfectly legal like alcohol and tobacco, is not only hypocritical and futile, but also simply not worth the incredible damage it does.

    Afghani farmers produce approx. 93% of the world's opium which is then, mostly, refined into street heroin then smuggled throughout Eastern and Western Europe.

    Both the Taliban and the terrorists of al Qaeda derive their main income from the prohibition-inflated value of this very easily grown crop, which means that Prohibition is the "Goose that laid the golden egg" and the lifeblood of terrorists as well as drug cartels. Only those opposed, or willing to ignore this fact, want things the way they are.

    See: How opium profits the Taliban: http://tinyurl.com/3ytnxun

    Prohibition provides America's sworn enemies with financial "aid" and tactical "comforts". The Constitution of the United States of America defines treason as:
    "Article III / Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."

    Support for prohibition is therefor an act of treason against the Constitution, and a dire threat to the nation's civic institutions.

    The Founding Fathers were not social conservatives who believed that citizens should be subordinate to any particular narrow religious moral order. That is what the whole concept of unalienable individual rights means, and sumptuary laws, especially in the form of prohibition, were something they continually warned about.

    It’s time for us all to wise up and help curtail the dangerous expansions of federal police powers, the encroachments on individual liberties, and the increasing government expenditure devoted to enforcing the unworkable and dangerous policy of drug prohibition.

    To support prohibition you have to be either a socialist, ignorant, stupid, brainwashed, insane or corrupt.

    * The US national debt has increased at an average rate of $3,000,000000 per day since 2006.
    * The unemployment rate has increased by 7300 per day since 2008.
    * The loss of manufacturing jobs has been 1400 per day since 2006.
    * Without the legalized regulation of opium products Afghanistan will continue to be a bottomless pit in which to throw countless billions of tax dollars and wasted American lives.
    * The hopeless situation in Afghanistan is helping to destabilize it's neighbor, Pakistan, which is a country with nuclear weapons.
    * The mayhem in Mexico has deteriorated so badly that it’s bordering on farcical.

    There is nothing conservative about prohibition, which enlists the most centralized state power in displacement of domestic and community roles. There is everything authoritarian and subversive about this policy which has incinerated American traditions such as Freedom and Federalism with its puritanical flames. Any person seeking to insure and not further compromise the safety of their family and of their neighbors must not only repudiate prohibition but help spearhead its abolition.

    We will always have adults who are too immature to responsibly deal with tobacco alcohol, heroin amphetamines, cocaine, various prescription drugs and even food. Our answer to them should always be: "Get a Nanny, and stop turning the government into one for the rest of us!"

  • ||

    All the people who are primarily moved by puritanism, tradition, culture, religion and other more or less rational sentiments can't go anywhere but to convervative parties since theocracy and unreason isn't something they can politely subscribe to.

  • Michael S. Langston||

    lol - yes, because, you know, puritanism (radical diversity), tradition (anti-authority), culture (hip), religion (government will fix all), and other more or less rational sentiments can't go anywhere but the liberal parties since....

    Or do you think that somehow democrats don't fall for the same basic idiotic thought process that *almost all humans (including Republicans) do?

    *I say "almost all" very cautiously as we all have the same basic thought tendencies and all humans will fail in critical decisions due to these tendencies. Some will mitigate those tendencies, but none will ever remove hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary pressures in their lifetime. So by "almost all" - I mean all; only that some are capable of mitigating it through learning.

  • SteveV||

    The Founding Fathers were not social conservatives who believed that citizens should be subordinate to any particular narrow religious moral order. That is what the whole concept of unalienable individual rights means


    Actually the Founding Fathers were social conservatives who believed that citizens should be subordinate to a particular religious moral order.

    Their concept of unalienable individual rights was derived from that particular religious moral order.

    Their concept of unalienable rights was based on the concept of civic liberty, not individual liberty. Civic liberty was defined as the right of "the people" to make their own laws.

    What would stop "the people" from making bad laws? As the Founders understood it, the only thing preventing this was the peoples virtue. (They used the word "virtue" extensively.)

    This is why George Washington could say things like: "Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness".

    It's why Jefferson could say: "God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?"

    It's why John Adams could say: "Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private virtue, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics."

  • JdL||

    This is obscene beyond belief. Are we really living in a world this insane, or is it a fevered nightmare? I've just donated to:

    http://painreliefnetwork.org/

    and encourage others to do the same.

  • ||

    I am "forcing" my wife to get a passport. It is a little bit of assurance that we will be able to escape this police-state of a once-free and once-proud nation; the greatest that will ever have existed in the history of man.

  • ||

    One woman against the entire apparatus of the Police State and they have to deny her the chance to speak? They are so afraid of this, so-called, "Bozo the Clown outfit.."? This is a new low for the entire security class. We can only hope this story gets legs and becomes a pants down embarrassment to the Obamastration.

  • Russell||

    Socialisation comes in many forms, some subtle, some like the proverbial sledge hammer to kill a fly. SCOTUS is part of the lofty oligarchy that rules the U.S.A. Its function as a check and/or balance to the other branches of government will only go so far before its very human constituent parts resort to 'form'. After all those years of education, legal practice and social interaction with their peers has to have had some effect.

    Something like Britain's peerage, where staunch upholders of the existing power structure are rewarded and encouraged to keep on keeping on. i.g. How many inquires lead by Sir... or Lady... seem to fall glaringly short of defending those precious liberties once considered a hallmark of Western Democracy?

  • ||

    first @SteveV: The Treaty of Tripoli describes and proclaims in no uncertain terms this country's purpose. Please read up on it, because im too tired to have this argument now.

    Real comment now. Being in constant agony sucks. Like, a lot. You get treated really horribly. I had to give urine samples every other week, and let my doctor count out my pills every other week. This was after being rejected by two doctors; the first, who got mad at me because I called him after the medicine he gave me made me, for lack of a better term, wet the bed for the first time in 23 years (Im 25 so..yeah) and multiple times in a row too. worrysome indeed, and he refused to give me anything else to help with the pain, even though celarly i could not continue the old stuff.

    Another doctor kicked me out due to insanity; I had bee ngetting my perscriptions once a month on Tuesday. One month, I needed it on Monday because I would be out of town. First he said yes, and then said no, and then sent me a letter claiming i was abusing things. Apparently, i was getting them "a day early" anyway (though he never answerd my calls to explain how its any different getting them on the first wednesday of a month instead of the first tuesday. Seemed kinda flimsy to me.)

    And so I eventually moved. I had been using pot too, because the narcotics made me very sick and i was down to 120 pounds. (Im male and 6' tall, by the way.) My old doctor kenw this, and didnt care. On the day my perscription ran out was coincidently the day of my new doctor's first appointment.

    Rather than ever look over my file before i went into massive narcotics withdrawl, the doctor only poked his head in and said "Sorry, this report from 5 months ago says you used pot so we wont treat you." I mentioend that that was five months ago and part of the reason I moved was to *get away from the temptation.* Didnt care, refused to test me again to change his mind. I mentioned the fact that id been waiting for my appointment for weeks since they had all this informaiton, and asked what i shoudl do since ih ad earlier that morning taken the last of my pills from my old doctor. He basically said "Nope, not doing anything." I made it clear i was giong to go into withdrawl, and all he said was he'd refund my copay. and then ignored me.

    I hurt so much, all the time..everywhere, like a constant rash. But mostly in my mouth, where my teeth were screwed into my jaw bone. And no one will help me. So I sleep a lot now.

  • ||

    Damn. The Pain Relief Network is no more, due to the the issues highlighted in this article.

    http://painreliefnetwork.org/

    I started following this story after I had some back problems that caused me chronic pain, requiring strong medications to keep it under control. After surgery, I'm 90% better, and don't require meds any longer, but as anyone that's had back problems can attest to, it never goes away. So, the chances of me needing restricted meds in the future are likely (hopefully not for many, many years, though). I really hope that some other organization rises to take up this mantle.

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