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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 Rugar on 2/19/2008 1:26:18 PM , Rating: 3
An ex parte hearing is allowable when there are urgent matters that may result in irrevocable damage to the requesting party if normal due process rules (read: time) were followed. In this case, it appears that the attorneys for Bank Julius Baer successfully argued before the judge that the documents in question would cause such harm to the bank.

As for the attorney for WikiLeaks being asked to leave the court, it looks like the clue to that is to be found in the phrase “in a personal capacity". It sounds like Ms. Turner was not the attorney of record (or had no documentation) for the defendant and was therefore asked to leave the court.

Is it sketchy? Sure. And to be honest, I'm surprised that WikiLeaks wasn't also slapped with a gag-order preventing discussion of the ex parte proceedings until the litigation was completed.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By TomCorelis on 2/19/2008 3:16:50 PM , Rating: 2
You are correct. The press release takes great pains to assure the reader that Ms. Turner is only the pre-litigation attorney, and that she is not participating in the actual case.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By Alexstarfire on 2/19/2008 3:32:51 PM , Rating: 2
Of course it would cause harm to the bank. You think they want to be implicated with money laundering? Course not. I'm not sure exactly what all is on WikiLeaks, but if it's things like this that expose criminal activities of companies then I don't see how the judge could do what he/she did. I mean, it's not like the spilled the secret recipe to Coca-Cola.

I do see why it shouldn't be allowed though, depending on the means uses to procure the secret documents, but when the incriminating bank is the one to press charges you can only assume that the document is real and accurate. I'm sure they just don't want to do jail time.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By Proteusza on 2/20/2008 5:49:33 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I dont understand it either. On the one hand, they may be copyrighted - but surely you have to apply for a copyright? You cant just claim something is sensitive and therefore needs to be protected.

What if I took a photo of myself committing a crime, and the police got hold of it? Would I be able to claim that the police unlawfully hold my photo? Come on.

I think perhaps the judge either wasnt aware of the full situation, or knew which side his bread was buttered on.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By phattyboombatty on 2/19/2008 5:46:02 PM , Rating: 4
Because this case was filed in the federal district court, all of the filings in the case are publicly available online. Wikileaks wasn't entirely accurate in its report. The bank served notice of the hearing on the temporary restraining order (TRO) on Julie Turner, who had represented Wikileaks in regards to the take-down notice sent by the bank to Wikileaks. Ms. Turner objected to the service of the notice on her, because she claimed she no longer represented Wikileaks. Meanwhile, the bank was having difficulty getting the complaint and request for TRO served on Wikileaks in the traditional fashion. The judge granted their request to use an alternative form of service--email--the day before the hearing. However, the judge did not reschedule the hearing date because he ruled that Wikileaks had actual knowledge of the lawsuit and the hearing date based on a comment made by Julie Turner to the court that Wikileaks was attempting to obtain an attorney to represent it in the litigation. The judge also ordered Julie Turner to be present at the hearing the next day. Presumably, this was because the judge wanted to clear up with Ms. Turner whether or not she was actually representing Wikileaks. At the hearing, when Ms. Turner told the judge that she did not represent Wikileaks, the judge said she could go (note that the official record does not mention that the judge forced her to go).

The order directed at Wikileaks only prohibits it from posting documents related to the bank. The order that was directed at Dynadot, which deleted the reference to Wikileaks.org was agreed to by Dynadot.

At the end of the month, there will be another hearing and Wikileaks can make its case at that time to lift the injunction.


RE: this doesnt seem right
By Rugar on 2/19/2008 9:47:49 PM , Rating: 3
Good work on looking up the case. I was way too lazy for that. Based on your reading, everything sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It's interesting how the article based on a press release gives a very different slant than does a review of the filings themselves.


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