A lawsuit launched by a former executive of Internet discussion board AutoAdmit has survived a motion to dismiss leveled by a former Keker & Van Nest attorney and other defendants.
The 32-page federal court ruling means that Anthony Ciolli, a University of Pennsylvania Law School graduate and former chief education director at AutoAdmit, can press ahead with his lawsuit against Stanford Law School professor Mark Lemley, who worked as counsel at San Francisco-based Keker & Van Nest, two Yale Law School students and others.
Ciolli’s lawsuit claims that he was wrongly included as a defendant in a case brought in June 2007 by the two law students, who alleged that AutoAdmit defamed them on its discussion board. He also claims that Boston-based Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge rescinded its offer of full-time employment because of the alleged connection between him and the statements about the women. The law students in November 2007 voluntarily dismissed him from the case, which is still pending against other defendants in Connecticut federal district court.
The March 31 decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania allows Ciolli to conduct discovery to determine whether his action meets jurisdictional requirements. However, it prohibits him from using comments made during settlement negotiations in the law students’ suit to support his own action.
Named as defendants in his suit are Heide Iravani and Brittan Heller, the former Yale law students; and ReputationDefender, a public relations firm that represented the students. Also named are Lemley; Keker & Van Nest; the Los Angeles-based law firm Rosen & Associates; and attorney David Rosen. Lemley and Rosen were attorneys for the students.
Lemley declined to comment on court’s decision. Rosen directed questions to his attorney, Arthur W. Lefco, a partner with Philadelphia-based Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin.
“We believe that when the facts come out, there will be plenty of evidence to show that there was a reasonable basis in fact and in law to file the complaint,” Lefco said.
Ciolli’s attorney, Mark K. Jakubik, was not immediately available for comment.
Ciolli’s lawsuit alleges wrongful initiation of civil proceedings, abuse of process, libel, slander, false-light invasion of privacy, tortious interference with contract and unauthorized use of name or likeness.
The district court ruling, issued on March 31, stemmed from racist, violent and vulgar comments about Iravani and Heller posted on the discussion board of AutoAdmit, which describes itself as the “most prestigious college discussion board in the world.” The decision also relates to comments about the women that appeared on another Web site, T14 Talent.
Ciolli asserts in his lawsuit that he had no authority over the message board on AutoAdmit and that he had no connection with the other Web site. He also asserts that erroneous information on T14 Talent led readers to believe that he was involved with the site.
The decision in Ciolli v. Iravani, No. 2:08-cv-0261, granted Keker & Van Nest’s motion to strike portions from Ciolli’s complaint that relied upon settlement negotiations in the earlier lawsuit. It denied without prejudice motions to dismiss filed by Iravani, Lemley and ReputationDefender, and portions of the motion filed by Rosen and his law firm.