Facebook ownership lawsuit to lose another lawyer

BUFFALO, N.Y. – The latest in a string of lawyers who have represented a man in a multibillion lawsuit against Facebook is expected to ask a federal judge Tuesday for permission to withdraw from the case.

Ohio attorney Dean Boland filed the request last month, a few days after his client, Paul Ceglia, was arrested on criminal charges accusing him of doctoring and destroying evidence to support his civil suit.

Ceglia has pleaded not guilty.

The request also comes as a motion by Facebook seeking to have Ceglia’s lawsuit thrown out is pending.

Boland has not publicly said why he wants to withdraw, only that it has nothing to do with any belief that Ceglia engaged in fraud. He submitted his detailed reasons privately to the judge.

Attorneys for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook have asked the judge to make the reasons public, or at least disclose the reasons to them. Facebook won’t oppose Boland’s motion as long as it does not delay the case, the attorneys said in court filings.

At least a half dozen lawyers and firms have withdrawn as Ceglia’s attorney before Boland. Their reasons have not been publicly disclosed.

Tuesday’s hearing is expected to be conducted by telephone. Facebook’s attorneys from the firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher are based in New York City, while Boland’s office is in Lakewood, Ohio. Ceglia also is represented by attorney Paul Argentieri of Hornell.

Ceglia’s 2010 lawsuit claims that he and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 signed a software development contract that included a provision entitling Ceglia to half-ownership of Facebook in exchange for $1,000 in startup money for Zuckerberg’s then-fledgling idea.

Zuckerberg counters the document he signed had only to do with a street-mapping database called Streetfax that Ceglia had hired Zuckerberg, then a Harvard University student, to help develop.

Earlier this year, attorneys for Facebook and Zuckerberg filed a motion to have Ceglia’s lawsuit dismissed, asserting that Ceglia had forged documents, fabricated emails and destroyed evidence. They also said he had waited too long — six years — to bring his claim and the statute of limitations had expired.

© The Canadian Press, 2012

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