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Facebook pushes for Ceglia e-mails in ownership suit

Attorney for man seeking half ownership of the social-networking giant says his client instructed him not to comply with the court order.

The New York man who is suing Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, for half ownership of the social-networking giant, instructed his lawyer not to comply with a court order to turn over evidence in the case, according to court filings.

Facebook filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, N.Y., to compel Paul Ceglia to comply with an August 18 order to turn over e-mail accounts and passwords. U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio scheduled a hearing for November 2 to consider whether to force Ceglia to comply with the order and whether to sanction Ceglia's attorneys.

Jeffrey Lake, an attorney who represents Paul Ceglia, said in a court filing Friday that Ceglia ordered him not to comply with the order, which also gave Facebook access to computers and flash memory drives.

"I informed Mr. Ceglia that the court had ordered him to produce, among other things, accounts and passwords for all email accounts he had used since 2003," Lake said in a declaration filed with the court a week earlier. "Mr. Ceglia instructed me not to comply with this provision and to bring the issue before [U.S.] District Judge [Richard] Arcara."

Facebook's filing suggested that Lake's filing may have violated his professional duties to serve as Ceglia's attorney.

"The decision by Ceglia's lawyers to turn on their client and publicly accuse him of wrongdoing by disclosing their confidential communications with him--as part of an effort to protect themselves and shift the blame to their client--raises serious questions as to whether they have violated their professional duties and may continue to represent Ceglia in this matter," Facebook said in its filing.

Calls to Lake's San Diego office seeking comment were not returned. Ceglia has reportedly relocated his family to Ireland as a result of the attention the case has attracted and could not be reached for comment.

Ceglia claimed in a lawsuit filed last year against Facebook and its CEO that Zuckerberg entered into a contract with Ceglia in 2003 to design and develop the Web site that would ultimately become Facebook--a company now with an estimated value of more than $70 billion.

Ceglia has said he hired Zuckerberg through a Craigslist ad to write code for a project called StreetFax and paid Zuckerberg $1,000 for coding work; he also allegedly invested $1,000 in Zuckerberg's The Face Book project, which gave him a 50 percent interest in the company, as well as an additional 1 percent interest for every day after January 1, 2004, that The Face Book was delayed.

Zuckerberg and Facebook, which had previously called the alleged Facebook contract a "cut-and-paste job," filed a discovery motion in June for the original contract, e-mails in native form, and inspection of all computers in Ceglia's possession, as well as those in his parents' house.

Updated at 6 p.m. PT The question of whether Lake could still serve as Ceglia's attorney was apparently answered late today when Ceglia filed a motion to stay proceedings while he finds a replacement for Lake, who has withdrawn from the case. This is the third time Ceglia has changed legal representation in the case. The large law firm of DLA Piper withdrew from the case in June, and former New York attorney general Dennis Vacco and Terrence Connors have also represented Ceglia in the matter.