16:56, July 27 349 0 law.com

2017-07-27 16:56:04
Cellino Denies Poaching, Asks for Receivership in Firm Dissolution

Ross Cellino Jr. is asking Erie County Supreme Court Justice Deborah Chimes to appoint a receiver to manage and operate the Buffalo-based personal-injury firm of Cellino & Barnes.

In an affidavit filed Wednesday evening, Cellino claims that appointing a receiver is the “only way to ensure that Cellino & Barnes P.C. continues to operate without internal dissention, and to prevent respondent Barnes from continuing to instill a toxic, dictatorial environment.”

Cellino also refuted allegations leveled Monday by fellow name partner, Stephen Barnes, that Cellino had tried to solicit attorneys, staff or clients and accused Barnes of “bullying” employees into signing affidavits against him.

“I have at all times urged and encouraged all Cellino & Barnes P.C. employees to report to work as normal, to keep their clients as the firm’s top priority, and to ensure that Cellino & Barnes P.C. continues to operate during these proceedings,” Cellino wrote in the affidavit.

The move comes after Chimes signed a temporary restraining order on Monday prohibiting Cellino from engaging in any action that would “disturb the status quo of C&B” (NYLJ, July 26). Barnes claimed that Cellino visited the firm’s offices in Buffalo, Rochester, New York City and Long Island to “solicit C&B employees in person and poach C&B cases.”

The bitter break-up between the law partners began in May when Cellino filed a lawsuit against Barnes  and the law firm—which is well-known in New York and California for its catchy jingle and ubiquitous ad campaigns—seeking to dissolve the 25-year partnership.

Since filing the petition, Cellino alleges that Barnes and “agents acting on his behalf have gone office-to-office … disparaging me, belittling me, and inaccurately and deceptively telling the firm’s employees, including the attorneys, that respondent Barnes is going to take control of the firm—all in an effort to compel the employees to follow respondent Barnes.”

Cellino’s father founded the firm in 1958 as Cellino & Likoudis.

In a memorandum of law filed with the court, lawyers for Cellino—Terrence Connors of Connors LLP and Kenneth Friedman of Hodgson Russ—claim that Barnes’ demands for a preliminary injunction “go far beyond those ordered by this court.”

The documents filed by Barnes earlier this week “establish the need for dissolution and the appointment of a receiver,” Cellino’s attorneys added. “The tone, tenor and overall spiteful allegations now made in respondent Barnes’s publicly filed papers leave no doubt that there is no viable partnership to save.

To force these two diametrically opposed shareholders to run Cellino & Barnes P.C. after respondent Barnes so publicly ostracized his supposed partner would inevitably cause irreversible harm to the firm,” Connors and Friedman wrote.

Both Cellino and Barnes, along with their attorneys, are scheduled to appear before Chimes later Thursday.

This story will be updated.