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Print 24 comment(s) - last by TomCorelis.. on Feb 20 at 2:52 PM

Court issues ex parte order to disable WikiLeaks.org domain, defendants given only a few hours' notice via e-mail

WikiLeaks, an “uncensorable” site that specializes in distributing sensitive document leaks and analyses, lost control of its primary WikiLeaks.org domain after a swift legal attack from Bank Julius Baer.

According to a WikiLeaks report hosted on one of the site’s many mirrors, attorneys representing Bank Julius Baer held a surprise hearing to force the site’s host, Dynadot, to delete the WikiLeaks.org domain name and prevent its transfer to another registrar.

The move followed an unsuccessful attempt to get WikiLeaks to remove hundreds of leaked documents that implicated the bank in money laundering and tax evasion activities.

According to a posted e-mail transcript, an attorney contacted WikiLeaks mid-January with a cryptic request demanding the site’s legal contacts, making no mention of the documents in question. When WikiLeaks asked the firm that sent the request for further information, discussions took a confrontational tone. “You have no legal right to demand advance knowledge of the name of our client and the documents at issue,” wrote Lavely & Singer attorney Evan Spiegel, “your site promotes, encourages and facilitates the publication and distribution of stolen, illegally and/or tortiously obtained corporate records.”

“You act at your own peril. Govern yourselves accordingly,” wrote Spiegel.

Lavely & Singer’s client, and the nature of its request, was not revealed until a brief phone call on January 22 between Spiegel and WikiLeaks’ pre-ligitation attorney, Julie Turner. Following that, WikiLeaks said it heard nothing further from Bank Julius Baer or its attorneys, until the surprise ex parte hearing last Friday.

A WikiLeaks press release, crafted hastily “due to time constraints,” says that it was given only a few hours’ notice of the hearing, and that it received that notice via e-mail. When Turner showed up at the hearing “in a personal capacity,” she was asked to leave the court room before proceedings began.

WikiLeaks said the injunction was written by Bank Julius Baer’s lawyers and accepted by a California district court judge without additional amendments.

Turner said she was surprised at the unusual legal request: “It’s like saying that Time magazine published one page of sensitive material so [someone can] seize the entire magazine and put a lock on their presses,” she said.

A representative for Bank Julius Baer declined to comment, citing the pending legal proceedings.

Despite the takedown of the site’s flagship domain, and a coincidental fire that knocked the site’s Swedish mirror – as well as a number of controversial piracy websites – offline, it remains accessible under a multitude of aliases, including www.WikiLeaks.cx and www.WikiLeaks.la.



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RE: this doesnt seem right
By fic2 on 2/19/2008 1:14:52 PM , Rating: 4
I was wondering the same thing. And, AFAIK, email is not really an approved method of delivering legal notice to a defendent.

I am suprised that a judge in CA would go along with this "legal" proceeding. Usually they are a lot more liberal. Of course, they are usually just this whacked out of their minds.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By omnicronx on 2/19/2008 1:20:14 PM , Rating: 2
Which is why i do not see this sticking. I would also like to know who is going to ask this judge some serious questions.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By TomCorelis on 2/19/2008 1:23:13 PM , Rating: 2
The only explanation I can come up with is that ex parte proceedings are frequently done in secret, so that the other party can't react in a way that obfuscates the legal case.

If that's why WikiLeaks received such short notice, then they was lucky to have received any notice at all.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By ElFenix on 2/19/2008 1:49:20 PM , Rating: 2
yes, ex parte stuff is done so that the defendant doesn't start liquidating assets or whatever else prior to the hearing. though this doesn't seem like something that would need this much secrecy.

in my experience judges usually phone the other party from the courtroom when an ex parte restraining order is about to be entered. but that is with employment law cases that don't amount to much.

this seems a very harsh restraining order. i'm guessing the judge doesn't understand that s/he could write an order against just the documents in question and not the whole site.

also weird, in my experience, that the judge didn't edit the order any.

finally, i really appreciate when lawyers don't know the difference between 'tortuously' and 'tortiously.' or maybe it's the blogger's spell check that did it.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By TomCorelis on 2/19/2008 3:11:56 PM , Rating: 2
Wow, good eye. The original quote had 'tortiously.' Consider it fixed.


By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 2/19/2008 4:06:08 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm -- sorry Tom. I left it the other way + [sic] in the original edit.


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