COURT: EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
CONFIRMED: JULY 2007
APPOINTED BY: BUSH
Liam O’Grady joined the bench relatively late in his career — he already had 28 years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, intellectual property attorney, and federal magistrate judge when he became a U.S. federal district court judge in Alexandria, Virginia, in July 2007. But his unique combination of expertise in criminal cases and IP litigation has proven useful in his district, which is a hot spot for government cases as well as patent suits.
The biggest case on O’Grady’s current docket is a criminal case against Kim Dotcom, the founder of Megaupload Limited. Local prosecutors charge that the hugely popular cloud storage service allowed its users to store pirated copies of movies, music, and other digital data. The prosecution is on hold until a New Zealand court rules on whether Dotcom can be extradited to the United States.
In the meantime, O’Grady must decide what to do with 25 million gigabytes of data stored by Megaupload on servers at a Virginia hosting facility. Prosecutors say that they don’t care what happens to the servers, but attorneys for Megaupload and some of its customers have asked for access to the data. In April, O’Grady ordered that the servers be maintained until the parties reached a settlement in which users could retrieve their data. (Negotiations were continuing at press time.)
O’Grady also had to deal with new technology issues in a case stemming from the government’s investigation last year into the WikiLeaks scandal. In their effort to gather information on three activists who had tweeted about their support for WikiLeaks, prosecutors asked Twitter Inc. to turn over the Internet addresses of devices used by the three, as well as data about the people with whom they had communicated. The activists argued that the government needed a search warrant to get this information from Twitter. O’Grady disagreed, ruling last November that the three “voluntarily chose to use Internet technology to communicate with Twitter and thereby consented to whatever disclosures would be necessary to complete their communications.”
O’Grady graduated from George Mason School of Law in 1977. In 1982 he became an assistant commonwealth’s attorney for Virginia, handling homicide, rape, and robbery cases. Four years later, he became an assistant in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia, where he worked on the drug and organized crime drug task forces. In 1992 he joined Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, where he handled patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secrets cases. From 2003 to 2007, he was a federal magistrate judge.