The Volokh Conspiracy

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9-Month Delay in Ukrainian Businessman's Filing Case Cuts Against Issuing Emergency Order, Despite Invasion

"While the Court appreciates and does not intend to minimize the disruption and impact that the invasion has had on Plaintiff's life, Plaintiff's own nine-month delay nonetheless demonstrates that there is no danger of immediate injury sufficient to justify an ex parte TRO here."


From Kovalenko v. Epik Holdings Inc., decided today by Judge Tana Lin (W.D. Wash.):

This action arises out of Plaintiff's action for defamation and invasion of privacy against Defendants Epik Holdings, Inc. and Anonymize, Inc. Plaintiff is a Ukrainian businessman engaged in international trading of coal products. In January 2022, a website called published an article representing that, in part, Plaintiff was involved in illegal schemes to ship coal into Ukraine with the assistance of corrupt Russian and Ukrainian officers, earning profit margins that resulted in the overpayment for coal and electricity by consumers. removed the article at the request of Plaintiff's counsel. In the same month, another website,, also published the article. Plaintiff was able to secure a court order in Cyprus directing that the second article be deleted, which was subsequently completed.

On or around January 29, 2022, yet another website,, published the article (the "Third Article"). Plaintiff's counsel emailed the website on January 29, demanding that it remove the Third Article. The following day, Plaintiff's counsel received a response containing a link to an encrypted and self-destructing message, which demanded a payment of 0.1 bitcoin for the removal of the Third Article. While Plaintiff has not been able to identify the owner of, Plaintiff believes that Defendant Epik owns the domain for the website, that Defendant Anonymize provides services to protect the identity of the website's owner, and that the two Defendants jointly operate the website.

On September 23, 2022, Plaintiff's counsel emailed Epik and Anonymize demanding the immediate removal of the Third Article and stating that the January 30 message constituted unlawful blackmail. On September 26, a Customer Success Representative responded to the email by instructing that abuse complaints to Epik should be submitted to a different channel, and the Customer Success Representative further notified Plaintiff's counsel that the "ticket" had been marked as resolved. Plaintiff's counsel never received a response from Anonymize.

Plaintiff filed this action on November 4. Plaintiff also filed the Motion, seeking a TRO and preliminary injunction to enjoin Defendants to remove the Third Article. Plaintiff requests oral argument and an expedited hearing. Summons was issued later the same day, and no Defendant appears to have been served or have appeared in this action….

Importantly, given that the U.S. federal jurisprudence "runs counter to the notion of court action taken before reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard has been granted both sides of a dispute …, courts have recognized very few circumstances justifying the issuance of an ex parte TRO." … [T]he Court cannot grant Plaintiff's request for a TRO without either adequate notice to Defendants or an adequate basis for issuing an ex parte TRO before Defendants can be heard. Plaintiff has failed to make the requisite showing of either element….

First, Plaintiff shows no evidence that any notice was provided to Defendants. This action was filed on November 4, 2022, along with the Motion, and summons was issued later that same day. The Motion, and its supporting documents, contain no representation, evidence, or even mention of notice to Defendants, which should have occurred "before or contemporaneously with the filing of the motion," LCR [Loc. Civ. R.] 65(b)(1), or why such notice could not have been provided. No Defendant has appeared in the action, and there is no other evidence of any Defendant's awareness of this action, much less the Motion.

Second, Plaintiff fails to justify this lack of notice. Plaintiff's counsel has not "certifie[d] in writing any efforts made to give notice and the reasons why it should not be required," Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b)(1)(B), and the Court finds no such justification from the record upon review.

Importantly, there is no evidence of any immediate injury that Plaintiff will suffer before Defendants can be provided notice. Indeed, Plaintiff learned of the Third Article's existence in late January 2022, emailed the website publishing the Third Article on January 29, and received a response the following day. Plaintiff then waited over nine months to file this action and the Motion, seeking a TRO from this Court. Plaintiff explains that "various events, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have delayed his ability to move for injunctive relief," and that he prioritized the impact of the invasion on his family, friends, and colleagues over "his own personal agenda." [According to the Complaint, "Kovalenko is a Ukrainian national who currently resides in Monaco." -EV] While the Court appreciates and does not intend to minimize the disruption and impact that the invasion has had on Plaintiff's life, Plaintiff's own nine-month delay nonetheless demonstrates that there is no danger of immediate injury sufficient to justify an ex parte TRO here. At most, Plaintiff only alleges a continuation of injuries he has already suffered, or a speculative injury of an immediate loss of business or potential clients. This is not sufficient.

While the Court is sympathetic to Plaintiff's plight and concerned about the January 30, 2022 demand, Plaintiff has not shown that he has provided Defendants with adequate notice and opportunity to respond, nor that he is entitled to an ex parte TRO without notice. Plaintiff's request for a TRO is therefore denied without prejudice. However, the Court is prepared to consider Plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction once Defendants are provided with adequate notice and opportunity to respond….