Raj Abhyanker, founder of LegalForce (Jason Doiy / The Recorder)
SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. District Judge William Orrick III has resolved a tense legal standoff between Bay Area entrepreneur Raj Abhyanker and the attorneys representing him in a trade secrets dispute.
Orrick, who presided over a closed-door hearing last week, on Monday issued an order permitting Abhyanker’s lawyers to withdraw from the case.
“There is no need to determine whether withdrawal is mandatory because it is undisputed that, based on counsel’s declarations and the arguments presented at [the] hearing, there is a clear breakdown in the attorney-client relationship,” Orrick stated.
The lawyers, who are affiliated with Abhyanker’s virtual intellectual property firm, LegalForce, asked to be released after opposing counsel accused Abhyanker of manipulating evidence in “a scam of monumental proportions.” In their motion, Bruno Tarabichi, Heather Norton, Scott Allen, Roy Montgomery and Brian Orton said they could not continue to represent Abhyanker under the California Rules of Professional Conduct.
LegalForce associate Kuscha Hatami Fard will remain as counsel to Abhyanker in Nextdoor.com v. Abhyanker, 12-5667, according to Orrick’s order.
The case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is part of a fierce legal battle over the rights to a neighborhood social networking site, which Abhyanker says he founded and Nextdoor.com Inc. copied. Nextdoor’s lead lawyer, Fenwick & West partner Laurence Pulgram, declined comment.
Abhyanker said in an interview last week that he is interviewing potential replacement counsel.
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