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Law Firm & Ex-Associate Litigate Badmouth Blog Battle in State & Federal Court

Posted Nov 10, 2009 3:54 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A war of words between Levinson Axelrod and ex-associate Edward Harrington Heyburn is now in litigation.

The New Jersey-based personal injury law firm filed an order to show cause in state court in Middlesex County Superior Court last week, seeking a shutdown order concerning the website in which Heyburn criticizes his former employer, reports the New Jersey Law Journal.

But within less than a day Heyburn had removed the action to federal court in Trenton, where the request for a temporary restraining order apparently still remains unresolved. A claim in the firm's filing that Heyburn's site violates the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act and the Lanham Act provided the requisite federal question jurisdiction for removal, the legal publication notes.

Heyburn, who says he was fired by the firm in 2004 when he decided to hang out his own shingle, is openly critical of Levinson Axelrod on his website, and it appears that at least some of his comments are touching on sensitive nerves: In its filing over the "horrendous cyber-assault," the firm complains, for example, that Heyburn's site points a disparaging finger at former colleagues' "1970s porno mustaches."

The Levinson Axelrod complaint also includes two state-law counts alleging unfair competition and breach of the duty of loyalty by Heyburn, who worked as an associate there from 1998 to 2004, the article continues. Although Heyburn doesn't name Levinson clients on his website he provides sufficient information to identify clients, the suit says.

In response to the legal action, Heyburn points out that it doesn't include a defamation count. And he has sent a letter to the Levinson firm contending that the litigation is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and threatening to seek remedies under state SLAPP law if it isn't withdrawn, the New Jersey Law Journal reports.

He has also changed the name of his website from Levinson Axelrod Sucks to Levinson Axelrod Really Sucks and purchased the domain name.

And, in a letter (PDF) posted on the website today he requests that the federal judge assigned to the case recuse herself because her husband has worked on Levinson matters as an arbitrator and/or mediator.

The Levinson firm is represented by Thomas Cafferty of Scarinci Hollenbeck. He says it plans to proceed with its request for a temporary injunction in federal court.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Ex-Associate Badmouths Former Firm in Legal Blog"

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