Opinion on Current Issues in Kleiman v. Wright

Daniel Kelman
10 min readJun 23, 2019

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a lawyer licensed in New York, a solicitor licensed in Hong Kong, and a foreign-registered lawyer in Taiwan. I have been in private practice focused on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency related matters since 2013.

This opinion letter discusses the matter of Kleiman vs. Wright in US federal court in the Southern District of Florida. On June 16, I commented “he’s fucked” in reply to a Tweet by “Dr. Peter McCormack” (@PeterMcCormack) referencing a court order compelling Dr. Craig Wright (‘Wright”) to produce certain bitcoin addresses. This letter expands on that comment.

No one has paid me for this opinion. I do not have inside knowledge of any aspect of the case unless otherwise indicated. I simply want to provide non-lawyers following this case with some insight.

I. Background

Ira Kleiman (“Kleiman”) has sued Wright for billions of USD alleging Wright stole from the late Dave Kleiman a sum of bitcoins the two mined during Bitcoin’s earliest years. Wright is well-known for claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s creator. Wright’s claim to be Satoshi is heavily disputed due to Wright’s refusal to provide evidence for this claim, such as cryptographically signing a message with any of Satoshi’s known keys. It is for this reason Kleiman’s action against Wright has attracted public attention.

Wright has been ordered by the court to produce a list of the bitcoin addresses where the bitcoins he and Kleiman mined are held. Wright has claimed this is impossible because those bitcoins were placed into a “blind trust” in 2011 and he does not have access to it since the trust requires him to contact a number of trustees that are unreachable. The court’s June 14 order indicates that it believes Wright does have the power to contact these trustees and access the trust, and ordered a hearing on June 28 as to whether Wright should be held in contempt of court for failing to produce the bitcoin addresses in discovery.

Contempt of court is a powerful remedy available to judges to ensure litigants comply with the court’s rules and orders. Judges would be powerless to administer cases without it. Wright may face imprisonment or fines. The court also has the power to award Kleiman judgement…