UPDATE: There is a brief account of the oral argument on the pokerlistings.com Web site.
That’s the interesting issue that a Kentucky appeals court will consider on Friday in an interlocutory appeal from the ruling of a Kentucky trial court. In Commonwealth v. 141 Internet Domain Names, Case No. 08-CI-1409 (Ky Cir. Ct., Oct. 16, 2008), a Kentucky trial court ruled that Kentucky courts of general jurisdiction have subject matter and in rem jurisdiction over civil forfeiture proceedings seeking seizure of domain names through which illegal gambling was conducted in Kentucky. The court upheld its prior ex parte order finding probable cause to allow the Commonwealth of Kentucky to proceed with the seizure of 141 domain names alleged to connect users to illicit gambling Web sites. The ex parte order also directed the service of a seizure order on the registrars of the respective domain names. When the trial court scheduled the forfeiture proceeding for December 3, the appellate court granted the stay sought by the vicsbingo.com domain name and the Interactive Gaming Council (see their petition for writ of prohibition), stayed the trial court proceedings and scheduled this Friday’s oral argument.
In ruling that the seizure could proceed, the Kentucky trial court reasoned that domain names are property that is present in Kentucky, and as such, can be the subject of an in rem proceeding there. The court further held that its ex parte seizure order did not offend due process because shutting down illicit gaming is an important government interest and the domain names could be removed from the reach of the government if advance notice were given. The court did rule that gaming Web site owners could avoid forfeiture, however, by installing geographic blocks preventing Kentucky residents from accessing their Web sites.