March 5, 2008
Swiss Bank Drops Lawsuit Against Wikileaks.org; Move Follows Judge’s Decision to Lift Injunctions Against Whistleblower Web Site
Statement of Paul Alan Levy, Attorney, Public Citizen
Public Citizen is pleased that Bank Julius Baer – apparently having suffered an attack of good judgment that has been lacking since the outset of its attempt to “take down” Wikileaks.org –has now dismissed its lawsuit against the domain name, the Wikileaks community and its Internet host. This dismissal comes in the wake of our private warning to the bank’s counsel that, if the case were not dismissed, the existing defendants and the intervening defendants, such as Public Citizen and the California First Amendment Project, could seek attorney fees under a California law designed to protect those who speak out in the public interest against meritless lawsuits such as this one.
Although the bank’s notice of dismissal warns of the possibility that the bank may bring the same lawsuit in some different court, we are confident that judges in such future cases will have learned the basic lesson taught by the proceedings in federal court in San Francisco – that a prior restraint should not be used against free speech no matter how serious the plaintiff’s claim of wrongdoing may sound, especially when those whose First Amendment interests are at stake have not been able to appear in court to explain the flaws in the plaintiff’s case. When courts issue prior restraints against free speech on a few days’ notice, mistakes are inevitable, and in our constitutional tradition, courts should bend over backwards to avoid improper orders against free speech.
READ documents related to the case.