Kentucky playing cards close to chest in latest legal move

Kentucky playing cards close to chest in latest legal move

Recent moves by the state of Kentucky to claim jurisdiction in its domain case appeal because unidentified domain owners were Americans is under the media spotlight once again.

The principal opponent to the state's abortive move to seize international Online Gambling domain names, the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association, this week repreatedly requested that the outsourced lawyers working for Kentucky reveal the identities of those they claimed were Americans in their motion to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The requests were refused.

"Lawyers representing the commonwealth of Kentucky have refused to name any new individuals targeted in their attempt to seize ownership of 141 Internet domain names, all related to online gambling, and then transfer them to the state," said a statement from iMEGA.

"Despite numerous requests from attorneys representing the industry's trade associations, the commonwealth's attorneys have sternly declined to identify anyone.

"In response to one such request, William C. Hurt, Jr, a lawyer from Hurt, Crosbie & May in Lexington, wrote that no one had the right to any information or even to challenge the motion."

iMEGA backed its assertions by publishing relevant legal emails. In one of these, Hurt wrote: "I do not believe anyone has standing to file a response or motion to strike." This was despite a January 2009 ruling by the Kentucky Court of Appeals that blocked the seizures and decried the lack of due process for the defendants.

In a secret hearing in Franklin Circuit Court in the fall of 2008, Hurt and other contingency-fee lawyers for the state convinced Judge Thomas Wingate to sign off on seizure orders for the domain names, despite no notification or representation in court on behalf of the affected owners.

The commonwealth's lawyers then sought to have the domain owners pay huge cash settlements to regain ownership of their property, as well as promise to block Kentucky residents from accessing their Web sites.

The matter is currently before the Kentucky Supreme Court, which heard arguments from both sides in October. A decision is expected sometime early next year.

Joe Brennan Jr., chairman of iMEGA, has been scathing in his condemnation of the latest moves by the state's lawyers, saying: "These lawyers lost a very public battle with us in the Court of Appeals, and probably sense the same result from the State Supreme Court, so they'll do anything to keep this thing alive.

"They were counting on a big payday from our members, in the form of settlements to get their own property back, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Since they don't get one nickel from the state to pursue this, it's clear that the drive for big money has taken over, and any sense of fair play or due process has gone out the window."

Responding to Hurt's claim that no one had standing to challenge the motion or to request the names of the new individuals added to the suit, Brennan said, "Their strategy all along was to ignore us every step of the way, even after the Court of Appeals recognized our standing and blocked their seizure efforts. They can stick their head in the sand, but we're not going anywhere, and frankly, neither is their attempt to seize these domain names."

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