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Atlanta-The recent defection of four Chitwood Harley Harnes lawyers to start an Atlanta office for another plaintiffs’ firm, Motley Rice, has spawned a battle over clients in two securities cases. In a suit against Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., the lead plaintiff replaced Chitwood Harley principal Martin D. Chitwood with the Motley Rice team. In a case against medical diagnostics company Immucor Inc., Chitwood asked the court to remove his ex-colleagues from the case. The musical chairs comes about a month after four attorneys left Atlanta-based Chitwood Harley to open the new office of Motley Rice, a South Carolina-based firm that is perhaps best known for litigating on behalf of states against Big Tobacco. Just after the attorneys quit on Feb. 15, Chitwood Harley sued them, claiming that they stole proprietary information about Chitwood Harley’s clients and tried to recruit those clients to follow them to Motley Rice. Chitwood Harley Harnes v. Antonino, No. 2006-CV-112881 (Fulton Co., Ga., Super. Ct.). On Feb. 24, three Motley Rice attorneys were named lead counsel for Argento Trading Co., the only named plaintiff in a securities fraud suit filed against soft-drink distributor Coca-Cola Enterprises, according to court filings. Argento dismissed Chitwood the same day, according to documents in the case. Argento v. Coca-Cola Enterprises, No. 06-CV-00275-TWT (N.D. Ga., filed Feb. 7, 2006). The three Motley Rice attorneys listed in court documents are Lauren S. Antonino, James M. Evangelista and Stuart J. Guber, who left the Chitwood Harley firm for Motley Rice. A fourth lawyer who also left Chitwood for Motley Rice, David J. Worley, is not listed in the court filings. Turning sour On March 6, the Motley Rice team was named counsel for two individual plaintiffs in the case against Immucor. Last summer, Chitwood Harley filed the original suit against Immucor, led by Chitwood and Antonino, when she was still an employee of the Chitwood firm. In re Immucor, No. 1:05-cv-02276-WSD (N.D. Ga.). That working relationship, of course, turned sour when Antonino resigned. On Feb. 22, Chitwood Harley asked the court to dismiss Antonino and her Motley Rice colleagues as counsel and to remove their names from the docket. Unlike in the Coca-Cola Enterprises suit, the Chitwood Harley firm remains the co-lead plaintiff’s counsel on Immucor, along with Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins of San Diego, as ordered late last year by U.S. District Court Judge William S. Duffey Jr. Both Chitwood and Henry D. “Hank” Fellows Jr., a partner at Fellows Johnson & La Briola who is representing Chitwood Harley in its suit against the Motley Rice attorneys, declined to respond specifically as to why Chitwood was terminated as the plaintiff’s attorney in the Coca-Cola Enterprises suit. Chitwood also declined to comment on whether the allegation made in his firm’s suit against the Motley Rice group-that they stole proprietary information-is specifically related to either the Coca-Cola Enterprises or Immucor litigation. Antonino, the first listed Motley Rice attorney in the Coca-Cola Enterprises suit, declined to respond to questions submitted by The Fulton County Daily Report, an affiliate of The National Law Journal. Chitwood and Fellows criticized Motley Rice for issuing a press release on March 21 saying that the firm was involved in the Coca-Cola Enterprises litigation. The release said potential plaintiffs should contact Motley Rice. “They are using the press release to draw attention to themselves now being at Motley Rice,” Fellows said. In the suit against Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises, lawyers allege that the company violated federal securities laws by failing to disclose its practice of “channel-stuffing,” in which Coca-Cola Enterprises forced extra products on its customers to artificially inflate sales.

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