April 5, 2012
Ceglia v Zuckerberg: The Battle Continues
Brett Smith for Redorbit.com
A federal judge this week ruled that attorneys for Paul Ceglia won't be allowed to question Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg or search his computers at this point in Ceglia´s federal lawsuit against the social network giant.
Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio will allow Ceglia's lawyers to question Facebook's experts about the two-page contract between the two men at the heart of the case. The contract entitles Ceglia to one-half of Facebook´s ownership, according to his legal team. Facebook attorneys say their experts doubt the authenticity of the 2003 document.
"We are very pleased with today's ruling," Orin Snyder, a New York attorney representing Facebook and Zuckerberg, told the Associated Press (AP). "The court denied Ceglia's request for broad discovery and continues to focus these proceedings solely on the question of Ceglia's criminal fraud."
Looking to advance the case and increase pressure on Facebook during the run up to the company´s $5 billion IPO, Ceglia´s attorneys seized on the positive side of the judge´s ruling.
"We are hopeful that once we have obtained and presented this information, the court will deny the defendants' motions to dismiss and allow the case to proceed to full discovery and an eventual trial," the lawyers told AP's Carolyn Thompson in a statement.
This setback is the latest pothole in what has been a rocky road for the Buffalo, NY-area man and his legal team. Ceglia filed the lawsuit in 2010, claiming that he hired Zuckerberg, then a Harvard University freshman, in2003 to develop a street-mapping system for StreetFax LLC. Ceglia claims that the contract includes $1,000 to fund Zuckerberg´s idea for Facebook.
Lawyers for the company, citing the age of the contract´s ink and other details, assert that the StreetFax contract was altered by Ceglia to include Facebook references and Zuckerberg hadn´t developed the idea at the time of its signing.
In January, Ceglia was fined $5,000 by the court for failing to provide court-ordered access to his email accounts. After information in the accounts was turned over, it was shown that one account was dubbed ℠getzuck´ and that Ceglia had compiled a portfolio for shopping around a prospective Facebook lawsuit to potential litigators.
Ceglia has also found himself on the receiving end of a Facebook lawsuit that demanded his case be put on hold until he pay legal fees incurred by the company in defense of his accusations.
"Defendants incurred substantial legal fees in attempting to obtain Ceglia's compliance with the court's order," Snyder said in legal papers filed. "Immediate payment of a sanction is the cost a party must bear for the privilege of continuing to litigate.”
Ceglia´s attorneys say the lawsuit is a part of the legal games Facebook is playing in an attempt to avoid dealing with the crux of the lawsuit: the contract.
"They're down to minutia and want to spend their time arguing about whether a document was in a particular format they expected it to be in rather than the meat of the case: Their experts haven't been able to produce any evidence that contradicts our experts, who say the contract is authentic,” said Dean Boland, Ceglia´s lead attorney.
In 2008, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who attended Harvard with Zuckerberg, accepted a reported $65 million to settle their dispute with Zuckerberg who they said stole their idea for Facebook. The case became the basis for the motion picture "The Social Network."