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Olmsted on Autism: Gone Gary Gone

Empty-chair By Dan Olmsted

Gary Golkiewicz, chief special master of federal vaccine court when the key rulings denying a link between autism and vaccines were issued, has stepped down from that post, replaced by a judge who – perhaps ominously -- seems to believe in moving cases through the court on as fast a track as possible.
The court gave no reason for the change. Golkiewicz was in charge of the court from October 1988 – the year it was created by Congress – until April 8. His replacement is Sandra Dee Lord, who became a special master in vaccine court only last July. She was previously an administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration in Raleigh, N.C.
Here is the press release: “Chief Judge Emily C. Hewitt of the United States Court of Federal Claims (USCFC) announces the USCFC’s appointment on April 8, 2010 of Special Master Sandra D. (Dee) Lord to the position of Chief Special Master of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (Vaccine Program), located within the USCFC by the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, codified at 42 U.S.C. §§ 300aa-1 to -34. Chief Special Master Lord succeeds to the position held by former Chief Special Master Gary Golkiewicz, who continues his service to the Vaccine Program as Special Master.”
In an e-mail to interested parties, Lord wrote: “As the newly-appointed Chief Special Master, I would like to extend my 
greetings and share with you my excitement about the Office of Special 
Masters.  My goal is to continue our office's tradition of objective and 
compassionate decision-making.

 I am pleased to have this opportunity to recognize Gary Golkiewicz, who
 will continue his service as a Special Master, for the more than 20 years
of service he provided as Chief.  The considerable achievements of the
 Office of Special Masters are due in large measure to Gary's skill, vision
 and effort.”
She added: “My colleagues and I look forward to working with you to ensure prompt and 
fair adjudication for injured petitioners and their families under the
Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.”
Autism parents and their attorneys who’ve dealt with the vaccine court would take issue with the idea that the process has ever been “objective and dispassionate,” as the three special masters who issued a total of six rulings in the MMR and thimerosal omnibus cases, while oozing pity for the families left to deal with autistic children with no money, were snarky and condescending, suggesting parents were duped by ridiculously bogus scientific theories and greedy lawyers. Yet government lawyers conceded one case before it was even heard – stipulating that Hannah Poling’s autism and seizure disorders were caused by vaccinations. And, it turns out, a number of other rulings over the years awarded compensation to children for what were actually symptoms of autism by any other name.
But with the MMR and thimerosal decisions handed down, the vaccine court masters have at least temporarily shut down the more than 5,000 parents who went to the court alleging vaccines did in fact cause their child’s autism. The remaining avenue – allowing the cases to be heard in regular courts – is the subject of a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. If that goes against autism families, the government will effectively have blocked every avenue of judicial review.

Except, that is, for new cases filed in vaccine court. Some strategists in the parent community believe that the only continuing recourse will be to keep bombarding the court with new cases in hopes that as the science linking autism and vaccines grows stronger, and pressures to recognize the truth build, families will finally prevail. That is why Lord’s comment about “prompt” adjudication of cases sent shudders through the vaccine court bar – moving new cases along as fast as possible would be yet another way to prevent a critical mass from drawing public attention.
No one I talked to believes Golkiewicz cheerfully relinquished his “chief” title to spend more time tying fly-fishing lures, or whatever, and I’ve heard he’s looking for other opportunities outside the court. (Would John Roberts ask President Obama to please make him an Associate Justice because he’s tired of being Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States?) The problem is, if Golkiewicz was in fact pushed out, it could reflect either of two opposing options: He might have seen too much in the 22 years since the court was created – years that, not coincidentally because they immunized vaccine manufacturers and led to the current flood of childhood shots, also saw the rise of the autism epidemic.
Alternatively, he might have gotten in hot water for letting the three special masters in the autism omnibus proceeding run amok, doing their business with a little too much relish; the tone of the rulings, especially by Judges Hastings and Vowell, were pretty personal. Vowell’s were the worst, positing that, as in Alice in Wonderland, you’d have to believe “six impossible things before breakfast” to accept the petitioners’ argument that vaccines caused autism (actually, the six impossible things to believe were the vaccine court rulings themselves).
If you want to watch the families’ lawyers take apart the tone and logic of the rulings, read the appeal of the Cedillo case HERE. As our Legal Affairs Editor Kent Heckenlively wrote last year, “Normally I don’t recommend legal briefs to people to read, but the Cedillo appeal is something different.  The lawyers have done an excellent job of detailing the prejudice against the vaccine-autism theory and the changing of the standards of evidence in the Vaccine Court itself. If you want to clearly understand the strength of the Cedillo case and how appalling the decision by Special Master Hastings was you need to set aside no more than 20-30 minutes to read this appeal.”
The appeal is powerful, elegant and eloquent and manages in its spare time to poke a little fun at Hastings, the worst writer by far of the three judges (and that’s saying something). He falls back on the old trick of bad writers everywhere of excessive italicization to make a point. Thus, in reciting a long list of assertions by Hastings, the appeal notes “italics in original” to the point of absurdity:
[Hastings wrote] that autism is genetic “and the only non-genetic factors. . .are factors that influence development during the early prenatal period” (Dec. 88) (emphasis in original); that Michelle had “symptoms of autism prior to her MMR vaccination” (Dec. 127) (emphasis in original); that Michelle “did not experience an abrupt onset of autism symptoms shortly after her MMR vaccination” (Dec. 127) (emphasis in original); that epidemiology rejects the theory that the MMR vaccine can cause autism (Dec. 88); that Michelle “failed completely” to show MMR vaccine can cause autism (Dec. 126) (emphasis in original); that it is “extremely unlikely that the MMR vaccine can contribute to the causation of autism” (Dec. 126) (emphasis in original); … and that “‘autistic enterocolitis’. . .is not a medically recognized disease category” (Dec. 142) (emphasis in original).
The problem – beside the fact that Hastings is utterly wrong -- is that if you italicize every other word, it starts to sound like you’re screaming about something that you think is so obvious – like the preposterous idea that vaccines cause autism – that you might as well italicize everything and end every sentence with five exclamation marks about what idiots these people are!!!!!
Anyway, Gary is gone and now we’re dealing with the new boss. This is going to be fun!!!!!
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

(Here's the song that inspired Dan's headline.)


Hans Raible

The appeal brief of Ronald C. Homer provides good entertainment:

Thus, one reads (p. 59) about the "fabricated pediatric lab values" of Dr. Christine McCusker, and her "waffling" on these values, "as well as her ignorance" [...]" (p. 60).

Such "experts" could be used by Goldman Sachs for selling worthless commercial papers to widows and orphans, and these "experts" would even receive high bonuses from GS, but their "fabrications" are worthless in the Vaccine Court which is a Court of Law.

The principles, however, remain the same in both cases: Cheating the widows and orphans.

Hans Raible
European Patent Attorney
Stuttgart, Germany

Birgit Calhoun

What interests me is why none of the special masters have a degree in chemistry or pharmacology or some field that makes their qualification as masters in this subject credible. It seems accounting, math and English degrees are not exactly what I would expect in a person who judges on toxic substances and their effects. One of the masters has experience in taxes. I wonder why those qualification I see in this link remind me more of risk management. Are these cases really insurance cases in the eyes of the government and the law?

Cherry Sperlin Misra

You know Kaufman, I too wonder how this will all end. Hope I dont have to live too long to see it. Why dont we all write our scenarios and see who wins in the end. My feeling, is that efforts will be made to just let it peter out. Stop using mercury in vaccines and then go on doing the studies of the birth cohort of 13 years earlier, so that the rate of decline is not too obvious. And meanwhile the autistic kids will get better, drown in swimming pools or get squirreled away in institutions or whatever and the populace will have new things to worry about and suddenly the doctors in their cafeterias will talk about how they knew it all along.
Kids with a very few minor symptoms of autism will now become the new autistics. (Their symptoms will be due to fishmercury, air mercury, water mercury etc.) Dont stop any of those sources too quickly please- Then the vaccines will just be too obvious
Dan- Love the song- Thanks


In my very layperson level of legal understanding, it's a position over an unconstitutional process, so I can't feel any change, except elimination, would be positive. The mindset that enables the special masters to work in such a program cannot make things easier for the vaccine injured.

I can't tell which. Is it the specter of disease or the, hopefully inadvertant, wealth/prestige that seems to come from poisoning the masses just a little "justifiable" bit to conquer disease that seems to make it possible for many to set just about everything else aside--justice, compassion, science, law, the precautionary principle, even reason and common sense?

It probably wouldn't be legal to require those working for the NVICP or the NVAC or the members of the AAP or vaccine developers and pharmaceutical CEOs to undergo a scaled-to-equivalent-by-weight dosing of the first year's immunizations that the smallest fully vaccinated infants undergo. Would any of these individuals lay their health on the line in such a risky way--the same way that they willingly, unblinkingly, ardently expect every tiny newborn babe (except maybe their own) to be initiated into life with?

The program has demonstrated the capacity for causing disaster and this step feels to me like just a step to put off those who call for change for just a little longer...


Let's hope Sandra Dee is lousy with virginity, as the song goes, at least in terms of conflicts.

I'm looking at Bensmyson's comment...Ooh look, she wrote for UPI for a spell. I'm not sure what to think about the guardian ad litem stuff.

Lol, I hadn't seen that italic-ridden excerpt before from SMH. Positively histrionic. Hope he takes his heart pills.

*Fun, fun, fun*!!!!!

Waiting for 6 sixs years, got no justice.

There must be more openings at Merck.


Based on the below excerpt from AP article where Gary spills the beans on the VICPs long history with autism cases, it's surprising that HHS didn't pull the plug on Gary earlier.
from AP article March 2008:
Similar cases
The case may not be a first, said Gary Golkiewicz, chief special master for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. He oversees the special “vaccine court” which rules on requests for payments from the vaccine injury fund.

“Years ago, actually, I had a case, before we understood or knew the implications of autism, that the vaccine injured the child’s brain caused an encephalopathy,” he said. And the symptoms that come with that “fall within the broad rubric of autism.”

And there are other somewhat similar cases, Golkiewicz says, that were decided before autism and its symptoms were more clearly defined.


Special Master Lord has proven she'll play ball for the NVICP team and throw out kids' cases.

Lord believes that for the Statute of Limitations on autism cases, the clock starts when a parent reports one possible symptom, such as speech delay. It doesn't matter to her if that symptom eventually disappears. Unbelievable.

dan olmsted

Hi Maggie -- the book is locked in for september. we like that because kids will be back to school and people will be ready to get serious again after the summer break. thanks for your interest and please pre-order! best, dan

Maurine Meleck

Was the new special master named after Gidget? Seems appropriate.


I continue to be dumbstruck with this cover up by our government. Really, let's continue to screw the children.. it doesn't matter how many lives are ruins, how many marriages are broken, how much suffering. Let's keep giving more vaccines because it makes money. If big Pharma can make them sick early on then the kids can be on drugs their entire lives. Wow - the plot thickens and I can't wait for the day when the truth is revealed. Then I will call that old pediatrician, the lady at the local Health Department, the health aid to the Governor's office and my Senators and say - "Vaccines cause Autism - you *****!!!" Yes Gary - your Karma will come back to you... maybe not in this life, but in the next one you will not even be worthily of bug status. How do these people sleep at night?

Elizabeth Rawnsley

A business company is operating under the same management for twenty two years and you have only found more complaints,sick children,personal injuries,deaths and a huge amount of injustices. Time to place this process under new management.

Time will tell if this management is able to make any accountable differences.


Hey, Dan, I was on Amazon today and saw your book is coming out in September. Can't wait to read it. Any chance it might come out sooner?

Jake Crosby

Bye Bye Gary.

Celeste Reese

My stomach is churning. We have written documentation of a vaccine injury being suspected when our son was admitted. I didn't know to request every single document of my son's medical record until Lisa Ackerman suggested it. What I discovered landed us a spot in the "kangaroo court" (in italics).

What the hell am I thinking? SMDH Oh yeah, that we are the strongest bunch of parents that any bureaucracy must deal with, and although it seems the deck is stacked against us (in in italics)the sheeple can not ignore the truth for much longer.

With tears rolling down my cheeks I will soldier on and continue to hope until I believe that WE (in italics) can make a difference.

Bad mood

Wonder why. He was a good pharma lap dog. Hope he rots in hell. Is that mean? Maybe I'm in a bad mood after being up all night with an autistic child and then literally dragging into school today. Autism is a living death.

Holly M.

Let's hope that the monkey studies are out soon. Parents need justice.

dan olmsted

that's right, benedetta -- he is gone from the key post of chief special master but still serves as a special master. -- dan


I may have not understood this but it seems to me that he is not gone but still there severing at a lower level?


Ben filed on April 15th. Here's to wishing a snowball finds a cool spot in hell.


Ms. Lord entered on duty as a Special Master at the Court of Federal Claims on June 22, 2009. Before joining the Office of Special Masters, she served as an Administrative Law Judge in the Social Security Administration's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Raleigh, NC.

She began her legal career as an attorney in the Department of Labor where, from 1980 to 1987, she concentrated on appellate litigation in a variety of practice areas, including wage and hour, occupational safety and health, and ERISA law.

From 1987 to 1992, and again from 1995 to 1997, Ms. Lord was Of Counsel in the law firm of Ross, Dixon & Masback, in the District of Columbia, concentrating on insurance defense litigation. Her pro bono work included representing the District of Columbia in defense of its child support guidelines, and as a guardian ad litem in child custody cases.

Ms. Lord served from 1992 to 1995 as an Associate General Counsel at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, MD.

In 1997, she joined the Department of Justice Civil Division/Commercial Litigation Branch. During her tenure as a Trial Attorney in the Frauds Section, she litigated cases arising under the civil False Claims Act.

Ms. Lord received her undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Yale in 1972, with a double major in English and French literature. She graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1980. Before attending law school, Ms. Lord was a reporter for United Press International, the Albany Times Union, and the Detroit Free Press. She is a member of the bar in the District of Columbia and Maryland.
Current Employment Position(s):
Special Master, since June 22, 2009

Bar Admissions:
District of Columbia
Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, District of Columbia, 1980

Past Employment Positions:
Social Security Administration's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, Administrative Law Judge

Ross, Dixon & Masback, Of Counsel, 1987 - 1992

Ross, Dixon & Masback, Of Counsel, 1995 - 1997

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Associate General Counsel, 1992 - 1995

United Press International, Reporter

Albany Times Union, Reporter

Detroit Free Press, Reporter

Department of Justice Civil Division/Commercial Litigation Branch, Trial Attorney in the Frauds Section

Profile Last Updated:

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