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June 29, 2011 7:40 PM

With DLA Out of the Fight, Facebook and Gibson Dunn Are Firmly in Control in Ceglia Case

Posted by Jan Wolfe

From The Litigation Daily

In April, when DLA Piper agreed to take on a case brought by Paul Ceglia, a businessman from upstate New York claiming to own 84 percent of Facebook, DLA partner Robert Brownlie told us the firm "would not have gotten involved if we had any doubts about the facts or evidence in the case." The firm's appearance on Ceglia's behalf, along with new evidence DLA included in a 25-page amended complaint, lent the suit an instant aura of credibility.

Things have changed. On Tuesday DLA and Buffalo-based Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman filed a notice of substitution of counsel in Buffalo federal district court, bidding the Ceglia matter goodbye. Ceglia's new lawyer is Jeffrey Lake, of tiny San Diego-based Lake APC.

The filing does not state a reason for the withdrawal, and DLA isn't offering any clues. "Due to our attorney-client privilege obligations, there will be no further comment," the firm said in a statement. Both Facebook and its lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher declined to comment on the change in counsel.

The withdrawal comes on the eve of a hearing in the case concerning a crucial dispute over Ceglia's evidence. Ceglia's complaint quotes from e-mails he says he exchanged with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2003. But Ceglia has not produced the original e-mails, or copies he says he made, according to court filings. Facebook's lawyers at Gibson Dunn, led by Orin Snyder, have accused Ceglia of "amateurish forgery" and called him a "career criminal who has engaged in fraud, subterfuge, and falsification of documents." At a hearing on Thursday, judge Richard Arcara is set to rule on Facebook's request for immediate production of the original e-mails or the documents into which Ceglia says he cut-and-pasted the text of the e-mails. With Facebook's lawyers in full attack mode, it's hardly an ideal moment for a new lawyer to step into the case.

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