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Trial over Cellino & Barnes breakup delayed until January

The trial over lawyer Ross M. Cellino Jr.’s attempt to break up the Cellino & Barnes law firm has been put off until Jan. 14 of next year.

State Supreme Court Judge Deborah A. Chimes planned to begin the trial on Aug. 6, but has agreed to postpone it until January, according to a court filing obtained by The Buffalo News on Thursday.

Attorneys for Stephen E. Barnes asked the judge to delay the start of the trial until a state appeals court rules on a request from Barnes to dismiss Cellino’s petition to break up the law firm.

“Both sides are waiting for this appeals court decision, and the appeals case goes right to the heart of this case,” said Christopher M. Berloth, an attorney for Barnes.

There was no immediate comment from Cellino’s attorneys.

Cellino and Barnes have been business partners for more than 20 years in one of the most lucrative personal injury law firms in the nation.

In May 2017, Cellino surprised the Buffalo legal community by filing a lawsuit seeking to break away from Barnes and start his own firm. Cellino said he could no longer stand working with Barnes because of a bitter series of disagreements.

Barnes protested, saying the breakup would be financially harmful to him and the law firm’s employees and clients. According to court testimony, both Cellino and Barnes make more than $1.3 million a month in profits from the operation.

Last year, Chimes denied Barnes’ request for a summary judgment that would dismiss Cellino’s request for dissolution of the law firm. Barnes appealed that ruling in April 2018, and both sides have been waiting for the past 15 months for a ruling from the Fourth Department of the state appellate court. The trial before Chimes has been put off several times now.

The potential breakup is also being addressed in federal court, where Barnes filed a legal action in June, accusing Cellino of trademark violations. Legal issues in that case will be argued on Aug. 2 before District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford in Rochester.

Cellino vs. Barnes: Law firm's profits soar, judge postpones breakup trial

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